Governance, Mission, Growth
Beating the Odds
How the Soll family survived the storm—and the competition
By Cat Vasko
Edward Soll, MD, faced a challenge in 2005 when he decided to open Doctors Imaging Services LLC in New Orleans: His primary competition, Diagnostic Imaging Services, had once been his practice—before he and his partners sold it to Tenet Healthcare in 1996.
“That was at a time when major changes were occurring with managed care,” explained Edward Soll’s son Shea, now CEO of Doctors Imaging Services. “There was a little uncertainty at the time as far as where health care was headed as an industry.” At the time, selling the practice seemed like the best business strategy. “It was possible to expand the business by capital that became available through being part of Tenet,” Shea said.
By 2004, however, it had become evident that Tenet Healthcare was a troubled guardian, and the Solls wanted their practice back. “Tenet was experiencing challenges as a national hospital company,” Shea recalled. “They had all sorts of government, legal, and investor issues. It was apparent that part of Tenet’s solution to its challenges was to raise capital by selling assets. Although the imaging company here was never listed as an asset, Tenet was looking to sell off. With all of our former contacts in the company, we approached Tenet with the intent of trying to purchase our old company back, and those attempts went on for about a year and a half.”
Then, Tenet abruptly and mysteriously pulled the plug on negotiations. “There was nothing confidential about the fact that we were working with them over a prolonged period of time to reach an apropos arrangement,” Edward said. “From my own perspective, I thought we were making substantial progress. Then, in February 2005, I was notified that the company was not for sale. No reasons were given.”
That was when Edward had the idea to open a new imaging business—a “center of excellence” with the latest technology, the best available radiologists, and high standards for service. “If we were going to compete with Tenet, it was going to be on quality and service,” he noted. “We felt that if they wanted to stay in business, they would stay in business. That’s the only way we’ve ever competed.”
|Doctors Imaging Services faced direct competition and a massive hurricane, but the center is still going strong and poised for growth.|
Edward asked Shea to come on as CEO of the company. With a little encouragement from area radiologists and referring physicians with whom Edward had maintained relationships for years, father and son began planning their new business.
“Everything was ready to go with construction,” Edward said. “The deals were signed with Siemens [Medical Solutions, Malvern, Pa]—we decided on a 64-slice CT because we wanted to be the community leaders in CTA; we bought a 3T MRI, because we knew that’s what neurosurgeons feel to be the best available imaging; and we added an open MRI, 3D and 4D ultrasound, and digital radiography. We were ready to start work the first week of September 2005.”
And then Hurricane Katrina hit.
“It took 1 to 2 weeks before we realized what had happened to the city,” recalled Shea, whose home was destroyed. “We had evacuated to Atlanta, but the news was coming in, and we were able to access aerial footage of our neighborhoods on the Internet. We saw what had happened, particularly the devastation that had occurred in New Orleans proper.
“Our business was planned in [the suburb of] Metairie, which experienced its own flooding, but not nearly on the same level,” Shea continued. “We quickly came to the conclusion that much of the health care was going to shift from New Orleans to Metairie. There would be both a population shift and an industry shift to the surrounding areas. We thought the opportunity for us was still very viable.”
So the Solls restarted construction—at about double the original cost. “We started in January, and with the city so devastated, contractors had trouble getting subcontractors, and prices were significantly higher for both labor and materials,” Shea said. But the thought of aborting their plan never occurred to the family. “We have strong roots to this area,” explained Shea, referring also to brother Gregg, who serves as the director of administration. “We love New Orleans. We grew up here and have decided to raise our families here. We wanted to stay. We wanted to be part of rebuilding the city.”
After 7 months in business, Doctors Imaging Services is prime for expansion already. “I wouldn’t characterize it as a normal start-up,” Shea said. “We’ve ramped up very quickly. We’ve gained the trust of many of the referring physicians in the community, and the testimonials that we’re hearing from physicians and patients are really reassuring to us. And now that we’ve had an opportunity to see how the rebuilding of the city is taking shape, the second center will be in New Orleans, not Metairie.”
Shea praises the staff for the way they treat patients and their upbeat approach to their jobs. “We’re having fun,” he said. “We have a staff of people who put faith in us at a time when there’s a lot of uncertainty in the city, and we’re the fortunate ones as a result.”
Cat Vasko is associate editor of Axis Imaging News. For more information, contact .
You Break It, You Buy It
How to transport sensitive medical equipment safely
By Renee DiIulio
Whether it’s across the street to a bigger facility or across the country, moving is always a challenge, and inevitably, something breaks. To ensure that sensitive imaging equipment isn’t the something that breaks, extra care is needed to pack, move, and unpack it. The specific type of care varies with the equipment, but safely moving it can be accomplished more easily with the help of an experienced and reliable carrier. In cases of leased equipment, the carrier may even be specified. Experienced shippers provide knowledge and services to help pack the equipment, properly maintain it during transit, move it safely, and unload it.
|Proper packing for a move could require special crating and additional labor.|
The key word is experienced. “An option is to look in the local phone book for carriers with high-tech capabilities,” advised Len Batcha, president of Technical Transportation (TechTrans), Southlake, Tex. “If they have not handled medical equipment, they may recommend someone who can. But don’t go with budget movers.”
Batcha suggested that an even better resource is the equipment’s vendor. “I would ask the company I had purchased the machine from originally for a reference,” Batcha said. Many manufacturers outsource their shipping to carriers. The contracts are typically 3 years in length and include requirements for key performance indicators (KPIs).
“Our contracts specifically identify high levels of on-time delivery, damage-free delivery, and shrinkage [lost shipments]—typically to exceed 98%,” Batcha noted. Most shippers, including TechTrans, strive to achieve even higher numbers. Batcha noted that the company’s indicators include 99% on-time delivery, 99.4% damage-free delivery, and nearly perfect—”less than 0.5%”—shrinkage.
Even with such lofty goals, however, facilities do hold the risk of having equipment delivered late, damaged, or not at all. Asking about a company’s KPIs can provide some indication of how they are likely to perform on a specific shipment, but insurance will cover the unexpected, particularly for the liable party.
Leased equipment could have contractual obligations regarding being moved—often the vendor or original equipment manufacturer (OEM) must be informed. If the OEM assumes responsibility for the move, it is liable for providing the facility with a working machine. If the facility assumes responsibility, or if it owns the equipment, it will be liable for the equipment.
The carrier also will assume a certain amount of liability, based on the terms of the contract. “If a carrier has been hired to move equipment from point A to point B and does so with no noticeable damage, then they would not be responsible for the equipment subsequently not working,” Batcha said.
However, in some instances, noticeable damage is not the only concern. Batcha noted that some equipment might have requirements, such as temperature control, that could result in less tangible damage. “If the carrier accepts this liability and moves it, and the machine doesn’t work because, for instance, the temperature fell below the requirements, then the carrier would be liable,” he said.
To minimize any chance of damage, the equipment must be properly packed. The best method would be to use the original packaging, but in many instances, it might not be available. In that case, options include custom crates or dedicated trucks that can strap the equipment to keep it secure. “Having a dedicated truck means nothing else travels with the equipment,” Batcha noted.
Other variables that affect the cost of a move include the size and weight of the equipment, the time allowed for transit, and how far it is traveling. Dedicated trucks cost more than loads that share space; air travel costs more than ocean freight or trucks.
Additional expense may be incurred during loading or unloading. Moving the equipment between its location and the truck can present challenges in itself. If elevators cannot support the weight, the machines may have to be craned in or out. Batcha has seen some moves that required construction, such as adding metal plates to protect flooring as the equipment was moved over it.
“It’s not simple,” Batcha said. “A lot of factors must be considered.”
Renee Diiulio is a contributing writer for Axis Imaging News. For more information, contact .
Making a Move Easier
Is your facility changing locations? Keep the following tips in mind to make your move a little easier.
- Hire an experienced carrier. Get recommendations from vendors or original equipment manufacturers.
- Ask for carriers’ key performance indicators during evaluation. These provide information about the company’s past performance in such areas as timeliness, damage, and misplacement.
- Specify liability in the contracts. Don’t forget specific equipment requirements, such as temperature control.
- Safeguard yourself. Properly insure the equipment for its move.
- Budget wisely. Obtain quotes and include expenses for packing, loading, and unloading. Remember that expedited shipments will cost more.