A lower-cost option: Premier Diagnostic

Paul Bauer, D.O., checks an X-ray at Premier Diagnostic Center. He is Premier’s staff radiologist, and the business also uses additional physicians.

Paul Bauer, D.O., checks an X-ray at Premier Diagnostic Center. He is Premier’s staff radiologist, and the business also uses additional physicians.

Premier Diagnostic Center

Info: 3920 N. Union Blvd., Suite 130

In business: 13 years

Number of employees: 23

It’s time for your annual mammogram.

The choice isn’t easy: Do you visit the major health care players in Colorado Springs — Memorial, Penrose or St. Francis Medical Center?

There is yet another option, Premier Diagnostic Center. Women who do not want to go to a hospital and people who want a more cost-effective option can have their mammograms done at a stand-alone diagnostic radiology center.

Premier Diagnostic Center focuses on cost, quality and access, said Administrator Ken Zito.

The center conducts mammograms, fluoroscopies, ultrasounds, X-rays, bone density testing, CT scans, MRI scans, biopsies and more.

“There’s a whole host of things we do,” Zito said. “It’s pretty well spread across the whole gamut.”

The business will also complete MRIs of neurological and orthopedic cases, Zito added. “It’s probably the one thing that helps keep the doors open the most. It’s the highest-paying modality that we have.”

Diagnostic imaging is expensive because the machines that take MRIs are expensive, he added. The center has two MRI machines and is looking to replace one of them. It also has machinery to perform X-rays, ultrasounds, mammograms and more.

In addition to cost, what differentiates Premier from area hospitals is the number of radiologists reading the studies, Zito said.

On staff is Paul Bauer, D.O. Bauer graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1974 and continued at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. He did his radiology residency at Travis Air Force Base in California. After he retired from the Air Force, he joined Diversified Radiology, which contracts with Premier.

Premier also contracts with around 60 radiologists, some from Denver, who read studies, Zito said.

“We probably have the largest group of radiologists available in Colorado Springs to read for us,” Zito said. “Some providers prefer to have you go to one of the radiology groups. We try to reach out to all of them.”

If needed, the business will then get a subspecialist to read the study.

“A neurological radiologist will read anything above the shoulders,” and pediatric radiologists will read children’s studies, Zito said.

The business averages 90 studies daily.

“Some patients will have three to four studies, and some patients will come in and do one,” Zito said.

The studies are ordered by physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners from throughout the Front Range. “We get some from Pueblo, the plains and some from Denver,” Zito said.

Premier Diagnostic Center is owned by Outpatient Imaging Affiliates LLC of Franklin, Tenn. While Premier operates independently, OIA offers support for management, human resources and IT.

Cost factor

Because of Premier’s size, the cost is less than the cost at a large hospital, Zito said.

“Unlike Memorial, because we’re outpatient, our reimbursements are a lot less,” from insurance and Medicaid and Medicare, Zito said. “It does make it less expensive for a patient to come to an independent outpatient center like this.”

Zito estimated the cost at Premier is 30 percent the cost of the same procedure at a hospital. In addition, when Premier bills for a procedure, it bills for the entire study, including the radiologist’s reading fee.

“When we say the procedure will cost $600, that includes the radiologist read fee,” Zito said. “If you get that same bill from Memorial, it’s going to be more, most likely, and it’s not going to include the radiologist read fee.

“You’ll get another bill from the radiologist,” he said.

Competitive prices

“We strive to have the most competitive prices in town,” Bauer said. “In some cases we absorb the cost.”

At Premier, a standard chest X-ray would cost $50, and a mammogram screening would cost $145, and this includes the radiologist’s fee.

Ease of scheduling

“To get an appointment is easier. We’re much easier to use. Our costs are less, and we can get the study read quicker, within a day,” Zito said of Premier. “It usually takes us less than an hour to get an MRI read.

“I like to think there are no downsides to coming here. We pride ourselves in cost, quality and access.”

Premier can typically accommodate walk-in business with no trouble, Bauer said.

Zito has worked for the business 10 years. This past year, Premier did $11.9 million in gross revenues, roughly double that of 10 years ago.

“We’re on an upward trend.”

During the recession, the business did not falter, Zito said.

“Because we set some extremely reasonable prices for people who didn’t have insurance, we seem to have done OK during the recession,” Zito said. “We didn’t see a drop-off in volume.”