Elias Gerth, MD, is the medical director of Key West Diagnostics, a freestanding imaging center that he helped to create out of frustration with the alternate radiological services in the area.
Like many physicians throughout the United States who are frustrated with the lack of highly trained subspecialty radiologists in their practice area, Elias Gerth, MD, had reached the end of his rope.
Too often, this respected Key West, Fla, internist and critical care physician referred one of his
patients to a local hospital for a radiological exam, and his
patients would return dissatisfied and concerned about whether they were receiving the high quality of care that Gerth
strives to offer his
The physician also worried that he
could not meet his
personal commitment to provide the highest standard of care for his
, who sees an average of 30-40 patients per day, routinely fielded almost as many complaints as the number of exams he
Instead of receiving answers, he
was managing more problems.
Instead of solutions, he
was getting the cold shoulder.
"From my perspective as a practicing, community-based physician, I need certain things: attentive radiologists, quality equipment, quality technology, compassion and quick service for my patients, fast turnaround, and reliable results," Gerth
"Essentially, the facility
that was providing radiological services here was not meeting my needs in these critical areas."
Identifying the problem was pretty easy—Gerth just asked his
patients about the outcome of their radiological referral visit.
In fact, the only choice was the local hospital, and according to Gerth
, the process was flawed from beginning to end.
The more Gerth
looked into the problem, the more he
realized that he
was not alone.
After reaching a point of "absolute frustration," he
spoke to other Key West physicians who expressed similar dissatisfaction with the local radiological offering.
That's when he
talked to friend and retired consultant Bob Dias, who helped Gerth
assemble a group of local investors that could help bring an independent, freestanding diagnostic center to the area.
"We needed to find community people willing to invest in the right technology and hire the well-trained technologists who could deliver the product, but, at the same time, would listen and understand our needs," Gerth
concentrated on the technical needs of the new diagnostic center, Dias dedicated his expertise to the physical side of the business.
attention toward finding a subspecialty radiology vendor that could provide expertise in a variety of areas and meet the full range of needs that only a state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging center can deliver.
"[Key West] is a standard community that has definite special needs and requirements," Gerth notes.
"But take someone like me who is an internist.
I have needs across the board.
To provide the standard of care that our patients deserve, we needed someone who could attend to all of us with consistent, reliable, in-depth subspecialty expertise."
The choice, Gerth
and Dias agreed, was Franklin & Seidelmann Subspecialty Radiology ,F&S
of Beachwood, Ohio,, a leading national virtual subspecialty radiology provider in the United States.
"Both [Peter] Franklin, MD, and [Frank] Seidelmann, DO, came to Key West, met with potential owners, and explained the kind of service they could provide," Gerth says.
And then some, according to Gerth
could be reading images for a professional football team on the one hand, they also could be taking care of basic fundamental issues that might apply to any patient in our community.
That was critical for us," he
"They were available through their resources to supply whatever we needed and tailor the expertise to the physicians.
"Looking back," Gerth
continues, "as our new facility evolved, the technical team at F&S
helped our technical team set up our modalities, and we were up and running with ease.
The diagnostic center—located next door to Gerth's
practice—includes several modalities, including a 1.5T MRI scanner, a 4-slice CT scanner, a digital X-ray room, a digital bone-density room, and an ultrasound room.
is staffed by four full-time radiologic technologists, five full-time office-staff members, and one administrator.
Within 3 months of its opening, Key West Diagnostics
was turning a profit.
, the freestanding imaging center prides itself on getting the patient to the examination room in 30 minutes or less.
The volume of patients handled is impressive: In 2004, the facility
logged 6,000 cases; in 2005, the caseload jumped to 10,500.
According to Gerth
, the facility
would have eclipsed the 11,000-case mark in 2005 had it not been for the four hurricanes that swept through Florida and cost the facility
a month of operations.
Reflecting on 3 years of success, Gerth
says that marketing Key West Diagnostics
to area physicians was as simple as delivering on what it had promised.
"The truth is, we really never had to market.
We communicated with local physicians through open houses, contacts, and brochures," he
"When they found that they could get terrific service that was as good as or better than the competition—and less expensive to their patients—it was difficult to justify not using us."
Initially expecting referrals from around 25 area physicians, Key West Diagnostics
now receives constant business from more than 50 physicians.
Also, the center has branched out to serve the US Deptartment
of Veterans' Affairs
, the US Navy
, local municipal entities
, and several cruise lines.
"The major thing," Gerth
notes, "is that we deliver on what we promise.
"We have found that the same dynamics that existed in Key West
are prevalent in many communities across the country," explains Gerth
, adding that three such diagnostic centers currently are being developed in the South.