According to Dan Cameron and Dr. Heather Nagel, “the Force” is now officially with the Indian River Medical Center.
They don’t mean a “Star Wars” character has arrived armed with a light saber, but rather that the Siemens Somatom Force – a 384 slice, dual-source, dual-energy computed tomography (CT) scanner – is now in operation at the hospital. It is one of the newest, most powerful and flexible imaging devices on the market. And it’s just one of three new imaging devices recently installed there.
There’s also a new positron emission tomography (PET) scanner by General Electric and an upgraded 3D tomosynthesis scanner for mammograms, which, Nagel says, “now allows us to do something that we could not do before – direct a biopsy using 3D imaging.”
Cameron, IRMC’s director of imaging services, is clearly pleased with all three of the devices but seems most excited about the Siemens machine.
“In the CT scanner, we’re [now] able to do any type of imaging. Cardiac, neuro, orthopedic, oncology, urology,” says Cameron.
“What it means is that we’re now prepared for any programs here at the hospital, now and in the future. We’ll be able to provide the best imaging possible and it prepares us for probably five or 10 years out, as far as our capabilities.”
Nagel, the director of the Women’s Imaging Center at Vero Radiology Associates and a five-star rated diagnostic radiology specialist on Healthgrades.com, jumps in to point out, “the new Siemens’ applications for oncology imaging are tremendous for differentiating tumors and differentiating cancer versus hemorrhage.”
Pausing only for a quick breath, she adds, “the cardiac imaging is tremendous, [too]. We can image the heart in one beat. We no longer have to give [patients] a drug to slow their heart rate down to get that snapshot image of the heart.”
The new equipment will be a boon to the hospital’s nascent stroke center, as well.
“We’re now developing a very aggressive stroke program,” Nagel reveals, “and the new CT scanner – the ‘Force’ – has profusion capability for looking at people that come in with acute symptoms to see what’s going on – on a physiologic level – in their brain.”
And, perhaps best of all, Cameron says, “the new CT scanner reduces the radiation dose [patients receive] up to 80 percent.”
With his new equipment up and running, the normally soft-spoken Cameron makes a bold claim: “I say if we can’t scan the patient, nobody can scan the patient. We’ve got the best machine, literally, in the world right now.”
These new capabilities, however, didn’t come cheap.
Cameron puts the collective price tag for the Siemens and GE devices at more than $5 million – which Nagel says was a good deal for the equipment. “The hospital really has done its due diligence. We looked at every possible vendor. What they had and what they could provide.
“John Skalko and Dan [Cameron] did a tremendous job working these vendors against each other, getting the best possible deal. It wasn’t like we were a kid in a candy shop or we can get whatever we want. It was really, what can we get and who can provide the best quality machine at the best price? It really came down to economics.”
Cameron explains the bidding and buying process by saying, “we do this thing called total cost of ownership when we do these projects. We look at the purchase of the equipment, and then we look at what is called the service maintenance agreement. We negotiate not only on the purchase, but also on the servicing over a five-year period and then add those up and say ‘OK, that’s what it’s going to cost us to run this thing for six, seven years.’”
Then, says Cameron, a “cage match” begins.
Line item by line item, Cameron and Skalko pointed out to vendors that their competition has a lower price here or there and after much haggling, they’re confident they reached the lowest price on the best machines.
Dr. Heather Nagel is the director of the women’s Imaging center at Vero Radiology Associates at 3725 11th Circle. The phone number is 772-562-0163. Dan Cameron is the Indian River Medical Center’s director of imaging services. n