Success Story: Block Imaging/Radiological Associates of Sacramento
by Matthew N. Skoufalos
Until a recent merger with the Sutter Medical Foundation, Radiological Associates of Sacramento (RAS) was one of the longest-running independent healthcare facilities in California, with a 95-year history in the medical imaging business.
For many of the more recent of those years, one of its go-to service partners was Holt, Mich.-based Block Imaging Parts and Service, Inc., an independent service organization (ISO) that specializes in sourcing and servicing refurbished diagnostic imaging systems to healthcare providers across the country.
Like many ISOs, Block Imaging provides equipment at a deep discount from the prices offered by many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs); which can sometimes amount to as much as a 50-percent savings, estimated Dave Tarver of RAS.
Tarver, who used to sell X-ray equipment for a major OEM, said he appreciates the significance of that knockdown.
“It’s definitely a cost benefit,” he said. “When you go with the major vendors, the big three, then there’s some cost there. And we’re not a hospital, so we need to cut costs as best we can, because we’ve been an independent entity for some time.”
Block Imaging supports and services the Philips Allura Xper FD20 catheterization and angiography laboratory as well as its GE 9800 mobile C-arm and four-slice CT scanner, which Tarver describes as “workhorses.” Block Imaging nonetheless maintains and keeps the equipment current on necessary software packages and equipment.
Although the agreement with Block Imaging was in place when Tarver joined RAS, it’s been a relationship under which the outpatient interventional radiology group has prospered for several years, he said. When considering which device provider to partner with, “service is it for X-ray equipment,” Tarver said.
“You’ve got to have a fairly responsible team [with a] good response time,” he said. “If we’re not actually using the room, then we don’t have the ability to make money.”
A good service company is sensitive to the needs of its clients, Tarver said, and Block Imaging supports RAS in all manner of circumstances.
“They call you back within a half an hour allotted,” he said. “If we need it done on the weekend, and generally, we do, they’ve very accommodating.”
Tarver’s colleague, Kristine Lintt, recalled a recent instance in which she needed to lean on the fast response time offered by Block Imaging in order to salvage an hours-long study that had taken weeks to coordinate among multiple specialists.
“Everything started acting up on the machine the night before,” Lintt said, “so I had to call them and say, ‘I need you guys stat; tonight.’ They came in the middle of the night and fixed it.”
When there’s a problem, Lintt said, she calls the number on the side of the machine, and the experts from Block Imaging help troubleshoot the difficulty as soon as possible.
“[If] I’m having problems, or I’m potentially having problems, I call and explain to them what’s going on,” she said. “They’ve been very gracious and very helpful, and they always respond.”
“It’s all about patient care, and our machines have to run well,” Lintt said.
If problems crop up during off-hours, Lintt said, she knows she can trust her service partners to contact her with alternative arrangements as necessary.
“I’ve given them my own personal cellphone, and they’ve called me and left me messages at home,” she said. “They say, ‘We’ll get this up for you, don’t worry.’ ”
Block Imaging isn’t only sensitive to the needs of its clients during off-hours and when making repairs or parts replacements, Lintt said. The company is also sensitive to the needs of her department when coordinating its preventive maintenance schedule, and makes thoughtful decisions when effecting that work, she said.
“They do PMs routinely, and if they see a problem when they’re happening in there, working on something, they’ll say ‘This is getting close to needing to be fixed,’ [so] we’re going to order that part now and be proactive.’ ”
“Sometimes when you get into things, they break down, another thing breaks,” Lintt said, adding that Block Imaging technicians help identify “anything potentially wrong so that we don’t have to go shopping for it” when parts need replacing.
In order to avoid that cascading headache, she said, Block Imaging helps take steps to keep the equipment up and running for as long as possible. Even at times when service technicians have arrived for a scheduled appointment and RAS hasn’t had the opportunity to accommodate them immediately due to workflow, Lintt said, their specialists have been gracious about the change in plans.
“They’ve had to wait because sometimes we get an emergency add-on and that can’t be helped,” she said. “They understand. They’ll wait or go get a cup of coffee.”
Lintt is a fan of Block Imaging.
“[Block Imaging service personnel are] good about being patient,” she said. “They’re good about getting the part. They’ve been neat and clean, they’ve been very courteous. When they say they’re going to be here, they’re here; that I really appreciate.
“These guys have been very good about making sure what they say they do is done,” she said.