Northwest Business Magazine

Success Stories: Summit Radiology

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With cheaper, faster and more personalized health care service, Summit offers a unique alternative to a hospital visit.

Summit Radiology co-owners Dr. Steve Bach, Dr. Martin Urban and Dr. Robert Pierce, inside the warm, inviting lobby that greets patients.

Summit Radiology co-owners Dr. Steve Bach, Dr. Martin Urban and Dr. Robert Pierce, inside the warm, inviting lobby that greets patients.

Retailers have long known that the customer is always right. But when was the last time you heard that mantra from your health care provider? At Summit Radiology, 3849 N. Perryville Road, in Rockford, a customer-centric philosophy is the driving force for success.

“The take-home message is that health care is changing, and it’s not like the old days, where you had one choice and you did exactly what your doctor told you to do, and you never questioned it,” says Dr. Martin Urban, an interventional radiologist and co-owner. “You do have a choice in your health care, and we’re trying to offer you that choice.”

An alterative to in-hospital medical imaging, Summit provides the same state-of-the-art equipment and diagnostic services found in a hospital setting – X-ray, MRI, CT, and now ultrasound – but in a relaxed environment. The patient experience is a priority for Summit, which schedules appointments 45 minutes apart, so technologists can fully address their patients’ needs.

“Typically, you go to the doctor’s office, and you have very little of their time,” says Nancy Appell, sales and marketing manager. “Patients are so surprised about the time and attention they receive here.”

At least one of Summit’s seven rotating physicians is available at any time, allowing for quick reviews of medical images. The prompt response is especially appreciated by referring physicians, who rely on Summit for analysis and interpretation.

“In addition to the individualized attention, we also have a 24-hour turnaround for all imaging reports,” says Appell. “You go to the hospital and you may not have your report back for days.”

Summit’s prompt service is a benefit for patients, and is also appreciated by referring physicians, who are secondary customers.

“It can actually be an easier experience for the doctors,” says Urban. “If they need to talk to us, it’s one phone call, whereas sometimes at a hospital, by the time you get to the person you need to talk to, it’s been multiple phone calls. We’ll even customize protocols, so if a group of doctors wants something done in a particular way, it’s no problem at all.”

The no-hassle philosophy is just one attraction for those who choose Summit. Many seek better, faster service for imaging related to orthopedic issues such as painful joints and torn ligaments; neurological issues such as bulging discs, strokes or tumors; or abdominal issues like ovarian cysts, gallbladder dysfunction or kidney stones.

Patients also appreciate that Summit performs hospital-quality imaging services for a third of the price. Because it’s an independent, locally owned business, Summit maintains a lower overhead than its competitors, thus reducing its costs to patients. Summit accepts all forms of insurance as in-network, and staff members take extra steps to ensure that everything is in order before a patient’s arrival.

“We check benefits and obtain all authorizations for our patients, and we let them know ahead of time how their claim is going to process,” says Appell. “This way, there are no surprises and patients are aware ahead of time of their costs. We check for previous scans, too, so that our radiologists can compare the curent scan with what may have been done in the past.”

Summit also finds a competitive edge in the high-tech equipment it maintains. Its wide bore MRI machine, for example, is a more comfortable device than the traditional MRI. Shaped like a large doughnut, this machine especially appeals to claustrophobic or larger patients.

“Our MRI table holds up to 550 pounds, giving more circumference around the body, which appeals to certain patients who might not fit in a traditional machine,” says Appell. “In fact, we have great success in working with patients who were unable to complete their scans at other facilities.”

Some of Summit’s cost efficiencies come from its relationship with parent company Camelot Radiology, a practice started in Rockford in 1967. Owned by Urban, Camelot with its team of radiologists provide medical imaging services to hospitals in Freeport, Rochelle, Harvard and Woodstock. Urban and several radiologists launched Summit in 2006, when they saw an opportunity to extend their expertise beyond the hospital setting.

“The idea is that by combining the services we provide to these small hospitals, we actually provide the same radiology services of a big hospital,” explains Urban. “These small hospitals would only have one or two radiologists with a limited amount of expertise. By having multiple radiologists that can rotate through multiple sites, they’re supported by varied levels of expertise.”

Camelot’s seven radiologists lend a wide range of expertise, including Urban, who maintains an emphasis in vascular and women’s imaging. The technologists, who perform medical scans, also have specialized backgrounds.

Because Urban prides himself on maintaining high standards and a reputation for excellence, Summit’s hiring practices look beyond basic technical skills.

“The other qualification is that you have to be good with patients,” says Urban. “You have to keep in mind that you’re serving our patients, who are our customers. It’s about your personality, not just training.”

Finding that right combination is sometimes challenging, but the right candidate can make all the difference, says Urban. With the introduction of a new ultrasound technologist, a host of new services are about to launch.

“We’re very excited about it, and it’ll offer our team a chance to expand their repertoire of services,” says Urban.

He markets the business mainly to two groups of people: patients who choose Summit and physicians who refer their patients to Summit. But there’s another important group as well.

“It just shocked me that it’s not always the doctor who says ‘go to Summit for imaging’ – it’s often the nurse or the receptionist,” says Urban. “At first, we marketed just to the doctors, but then we realized that’s not necessarily the first reference. It’s usually after the doctor says you need an MRI or CT scan that one of the nurses suggests Summit, or the receptionist mentions it. One rule of business is to never overlook the gatekeeper. That could be a costly mistake.”

When serving fellow physicians, Urban finds that speed and a narrow focus are competitive advantages. Each member of his staff is comfortable adapting to urgent situations.

“There was a case today where the doctor got a result five minutes after the patient was off the CT table,” says Urban. “That usually doesn’t happen in larger facilities.”

In a world where everything in health care is complex and confusing, Urban wants to make things just a little easier for everybody – both patients and physicians.

“We’re trying to practice a little old-school medicine,” says Urban. “My dad was a doctor, and that’s the kind of medicine that he would practice. If somebody called and had a medical problem, he would fit them into his schedule that day. There was no waiting for the next ‘available’ appointment. Today, you don’t find that kind of care. We’re trying to be a throwback to old-fashioned service.”

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