Making Medical Imaging Affordable To All
Medical imaging is a key diagnostic tool in the health care industry. Over the years the associated technology has witnessed tremendous growth, making it more affordable and efficient. An acclaimed business leader in the health care industry Cristin A. Dickerson, who is also an MD and the CEO and founder of Green Imaging, has participated in that growth, having spent 28 years in the industry. Her company’s primary aim is to help patients make the most informed decisions about MRIs, CT scans and other imaging procedures. Based out of Houston, Texas, Green Imaging is a full service virtual medical imaging network, offering cash-pay price to all its patients and direct contracting to innovative health plans ensuring they are charged a fair all-inclusive price for imaging procedures (the prices include the radiologist interpretation and any contrast or supply charges).
The journey of Green Imaging began in 2012 when Cristin realized that there was a dearth of high quality, affordable medical imaging centers in Houston. “We had a 21% uninsured population in Houston in 2012. We had very few options for high quality, affordable medical imaging for those folks. I explored opening a cash pay imaging center but was looking at $3-4 million in debt,” she said. Cristin added that the centers her group served as radiologists were at 50% capacity at best, hence she decided to use a Travelocity-like model and bought the unused time on their scanners at a discount. “I and the other radiologists in my practice read the exams to assure quality across the network. That model grew throughout Texas. Then, last year we began contracting with independent imaging centers nationally and our network now consists of about 950 centers across the country.”
Technology to the rescue
Technology, for Cristin, was the key enabler in improving access to affordable imaging for the masses. Cloud based technology allows referral management for tens of thousands of exams from varying referral sources. It also enables images from across the country to be interpreted centrally and efficiently in a PACS (picture archiving and communications)/RIS (radiology information system).
The current healthcare industry is crippled with challenges including HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliance. Cristin said the healthcare industry is held to standards that stifle and drive up the cost of innovation. “Why is your healthcare data more precious than your legal and financial data and personal/interpersonal communications?” she asked further citing dependency on decade-old medical claim forms and coding systems trademarked by the AMA as another challenge. “60-70% of physicians being employed by hospital systems are relying on the hospitals to find innovation rather than exploring it for their own independent practices,” she added.
The Success mantra
As a strategic leader, Cristin has relentlessly carried the tirade against the healthcare experts who did not want to break away from the existing tyranny in the system. “One can overcome failure only through powering through it. Power through it, you will sometimes fail, but it can make you stronger and smarter,” she noted.
But now, Cristin is on cloud nine. Green Imaging is finalizing a contract with a company with 40,000 employees. “We are also developing a custom network for 100,000 employees in California and are presenting to a school district in Florida very soon. We can save employers and health plans 10% on their overall health care spend.”
A word of advice for start-ups
According to Cristin, start-ups and booming entrepreneurs should rely on self-funding, especially if they were looking to establish their business in the emerging cost contained healthcare system. “The real need of the hour is to get rid of bloated middlemen who have bled the system dry. I was a self-funded employer when I was president of a 50- doctor multi-specialty group and always saw the potential of Green Imaging becoming a preferred cost containment network for employer health care plans and that has come to fruition these last 3 years.”