Longtime Naples radiologists go to Physicians Regional

NAPLES, FLORIDA (November 21, 2011 by Naples Daily News) -- Radiology services in Collier County hospitals are in a state of flux, reflecting an outsourcing trend in one case and a coming home in another.

The NCH Healthcare System has contracted with a national radiology firm, Ohio-based Radisphere, for services at its NCH Downtown Naples and North Naples hospitals.

The change alters NCH's longstanding relationship with Naples Radiologists, which was established in 1972 and was the original group of radiologists in Collier. In contrast, Physicians Regional Healthcare System has signed a contract for the Naples radiology group to handle radiology services at its two Physicians Regional hospitals on Pine Ridge Road and Collier Boulevard. The contract takes effect Dec. 27, spokeswoman Taylor Hamilton said.

Physicians Regional currently is using a national company. Radiologists generally are behind-the-scenes in hospitals and patients may never meet them, but they are responsible for interpreting a host of tests, such as MRIs and other scans, for diagnosing patients' diseases. Physicians Regional was presented with a great opportunity to partner with the Naples radiology group, Todd Lupton, chief executive officer of the hospital system, said in a statement. "This alliance will provide our patients immediate local access to a multi-specialty group that has been serving our community for several decades," he said. "The (group's) reputation is reflected through the high-quality imaging services they offer patients as well as their exceptional relationships with community physicians."

NCH said it will transition to Radisphere in December. Officials at Radisphere couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Several specialists contacted in recent weeks expressed reservations about NCH going to an out-of-town group, but also pointed out the local radiologists will now be at Physicians Regional.

The local radiologists are vested in the community and that bond is valuable and should be for patients, too, said Dr. Joseph Gauta, an obstetrician and past president of the Collier County Medical Society. "These guys know the community, they live in the community, they send their kids to school here," he said. "It's not a total loss. We get to be with them at (Physicians Regional). You lose one thing and gain another." Dr. Scot Schultz, a cardiovascular surgeon at NCH, said the local radiologists are a "very well-liked group and a very well-respected group that provided excellent quality for NCH for many, many years and will be sorely missed."

The advent in recent years of teleradiology services, where patients' scans can be sent anywhere through Internet-based programs for radiologists to remotely interpret and send back their reports, has dramatically altered the radiology field. Allen S. Weiss, M.D., President and CEO Teleradiology has caused community-based radiologists to face competition for hospital contracts from national and international radiology companies that they didn't face before. In turn, teleradiology has given hospitals greater flexibility and cost-saving opportunities when shaving expenses is crucial against rising uninsured populations and declining reimbursements. Radiologists with the Naples group couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
The group also operates Naples Diagnostic Imaging Centers with NCH and that relationship will continue, Dr. Allen Weiss, NCH's chief executive officer and president, said in a statement. Regarding the hospital contract, NCH several months ago began seeking proposals for radiology services from national, regional and local groups. "Radisphere will bring nationally recognized best practices to NCH," Weiss said. "We expect the transition for patients to be seamless."