Wisconsin imaging operator Smart Choice MRI goes out of business, closing handful of Midwest centers

Once-promising imaging operator Smart Choice MRI went out of business on Monday and is closing a handful of outpatient centers in the Midwest while selling off a few more.

At its height, the practice had managed 16 or so locations across four markets and considered expanding to as many as 70, offering MR scans for a $600 flat fee. But most are now closing, with four in Wisconsin sold to the growing Minnesota-based Center for Diagnostic Imaging.

“We’re excited about expanding our presence in Wisconsin,” CDI Chief Executive Officer Rick Long said in a statement issued Tuesday. “We’ve had a long history of providing critical healthcare answers to patients and providers throughout the state, and these new centers help us expand access to our high-quality, high-value imaging services at a crucial time when people are seeking the convenience and safety of outpatient care.”

Smart Choice MRI did not immediately respond to a Radiology Business request for further comment Wednesday. A representative for the firm said over the phone that the closure “happened quite suddenly” this week.

First founded in 2006, Smart Choice was established around the idea of cost transparency amid a rise in high-deductible health plans and cost-conscious consumers. Several health systems had invested millions in the company, buying into its value proposition.

Smart Choice, in fact, had raised $28 million from investors since CEO Rick Anderson joined the single-site firm in 2014, according to an archived version of its website. Those included $7 million from Edward-Elmhurst Health to open five locations around Chicago and $4 million more from ThedaCare in Wisconsin. Officials had eyed further expansion in the Denver area, with the entire company employing a workforce of 189 in 2017, at offices in Chicago and Mequon, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported

CDI has purchased and is now working to convert four former Smart Choice MRI locations in the Badger State. Imaging centers in Appleton and De Pere are already operating under the Center Diagnostic Imaging banner, while outposts in Kenosha and La Crosse are closing temporarily before eventually reopening as CDI centers down the line, according to the announcement.

Other remaining Smart Choice MRIs in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois are shutting down this week. The Center for Diagnostic Imaging is now working to steer former Smart Choice customers in those markets over to nearby CDI offerings, including its network of 15 locations in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, and two more in the Chicago suburbs.

All told, CDI now operates 130 imaging centers nationwide, including 10 in Wisconsin, six of which are operated through a partnership with Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin. The company also recently announced the acquisition of eight more outpatient imaging outposts in Utah.

This is a developing story. Radiology Business will have further details following the holiday.