Governance, Mission, Growth

First Dedicated Breast MR Starts Scanning in the Pacific Northwest
Aurora Launches Free Breast MR Reimbursement Hotline

First Dedicated Breast MR Starts Scanning in the Pacific Northwest

by Dana Hinesly

As a dedicated breast imaging facility in search of a new MR unit, the Overlake Breast MRI (OBMRI) wanted the perfect fit.

“When we opted to obtain an MRI system at our facility, we had no use for a whole body unit because we are exclusively a breast center,” said David Magaram, MD, director, OBMRI. The center found what it was looking for in the Aurora® 1.5T Dedicated Breast MRI System. “Having [this system] has positively impacted the care we provide our patients in large part due to the comfort provided by the Aurora table that was designed specifically to fit a woman’s body.”

Intended solely for breast imaging, the Aurora System’s table is contoured precisely to accommodate breast anatomy, providing pain-free, easy access during the examination. Because patients lie prone—with arms forward and down for comfort—they also move less often, which minimizes the risk of motion artifacts on the images.

According to its manufacturer, Aurora Imaging Technology Inc, the Aurora System is the only FDA-cleared, dedicated breast MRI system that has been specifically designed for 3D bilateral breast imaging.

Aurora® MRI System
The Aurora® 1.5Tesla Dedicated Breast MRI System provides high quality plus patient comfort.

OBMRI screened its first patient in September 2006 and has served more than 500 patients since the installment of the Aurora System.

“The Aurora System was chosen for OBMRI not only because it is the most advanced technology for high-risk patients, but also because the Aurora table is uniquely suited for patient comfort and designed specifically for breast imaging,” said Patrick Wiesmann, cofounder of Black Rock Healthcare Development, which is responsible for the day-to-day operations at OBMRI. “When choosing the Aurora System for OBMRI, it was not the intention for radiologists to replace mammography, but to use the Aurora Breast MRI as another resource for further clarification on a patient’s condition and to provide a higher level of breast cancer screening.”

OBMRI, located in Bellevue, Wash, on the Overlake Hospital Medical Center campus, focused preinstallation promotion on bringing the center’s referring physicians up to speed.

“Our marketing efforts were primarily for education and awareness regarding Aurora’s capabilities, so physicians can better understand proper referrals and how the Aurora Breast MRI System works in conjunction with mammography and ultrasound,” said Wiesmann, who was instrumental in bringing the Aurora System to OBMRI. “The feedback from the physicians has all been very positive.”

He adds that many radiologists specifically noted that the system’s image quality and resolution have been extraordinary. The patient-friendly features of the system have also been noticed by OBMRI’s clientele.

“Some have commented that on the Aurora System they can lie down comfortably, feet first into the machine, with easy access in and out of the system,” said Wiesmann. This is an especially important return on investment for the facility’s team. “One of the most important goals of OBMRI is to provide a patient-friendly environment along with a supportive staff to better meet patient needs through an already difficult experience.”

Aurora Launches Free Breast MR Reimbursement Hotline

When breast cancer is suspected, the diagnostic process can create much angst for patients—and a reimbursement puzzle for radiologists and their administrators.

“Reimbursement, or the lack thereof, is one of the most important issues in health care today. A drug, biological, device, or procedure can be a vast improvement over any predecessor, but if there is no reimbursement, patients will not have access,” said Barbara J. Ossias, principal, Reimbursement Revenue Solutions, LLC. “The first question providers ask when deciding what to buy is ‘Do payors reimburse for it?’ and if the answer is no, they do not go forward.”

Aurora Imaging Technology Inc is hoping to change that with the new Aurora Breast MRI Reimbursement Hotline.

“For many practices today, barriers to payment are sometimes a result of a lack of accurate billing tools,” said Olivia Ho Cheng, president and chief executive officer, Aurora. She notes that those at Aurora hope that the hotline will make it easier for its customers, “both existing and future,” to support patients in the fight against breast cancer. “When practices do not have access to appropriate coding and coverage guidelines, they don’t have the correct tools to report procedures, resulting in potential reimbursement issues.”

Reimbursement expert Ossias heads up the staff of specialists manning the Aurora Breast MRI Reimbursement Hotline. She is an educator certified by both the American Society of Radiologic Technologists and the Society of Nuclear Medicine, and those who call have access to her more than two decades of experience in medical imaging and nuclear medicine reimbursement.

While it has been in operation exclusively for Aurora customers for some time, this June the company decided to expand its services, providing the answers free of charge to the general public. Aurora Imaging Technology covers the cost of the hotline.

Imagers can access the expertise by either calling (301) 371-3449 or e-mailing Ossias at with questions. The Reimbursement Hotline is available Monday through Friday, from 7 am to 7 pm (Eastern time), except for Federal holidays.

E-mails are answered promptly. If the staff is busy, callers can leave detailed voice mails. All messages are answered as quickly as possible, with the turnaround time goal being no more than a 2-hour delay.

Business is good for Ossias, with the majority of queries currently addressing medical coverage policies for various third-party payors. Questions about precertification and prior authorization are a close second. Other examples of key hotline services are new account billing assistance and region-specific billing issues.