In a recent article that appeared in both the Business Journal and The Examiner, we tested a notion that had been offered almost as an article of faith – whenever local doctors got sick, they traveled 90 miles west to Houston for treatment. A billboard erected earlier this year near the intersection of Dowlen Road and Highway 69 proclaims, “Houston … you have a problem,” then touts “World Class Surgery. Personal Attention. Right here in Beaumont.”
The focus of the article was new specialty health care facilities including Previty Clinic at Baptist Hospital and the recently announced Victory Medical Center. We often solicit opinions from people with inside knowledge of a particular industry. On rare occasions, we agree not to identify them by name to encourage them to speak openly about institutions they might encounter in their business. That was the case with ‘Boutique Medicine”. Here is a comment that appeared in that story:
“There’s no question we have quality health care in Southeast Texas because both hospitals have been recognized nationally – Christus and Baptist,” said one observer who closely tracks the local medical scene, and enumerates the points that are important to many patients. “You have a board-certified physician – you definitely want to know that, and there’s nothing wrong with asking doctors their clinical outcomes; you can go online and see that now. So you have everything that’s necessary here to provide the service in the right atmosphere with the right clinical outcomes.”
So far, so good. But the next comment from this unnamed observer proved problematic, as you will see – although it seemed like a minor point at the time:
“Insurance companies are all about saving dollars,” said the observer. “If you need an MRI, they may send you over to the MRI place that used to be a movie theater that has a rejuvenated MRI machine that is probably 15 years old and you can get your MRI for half the price. Never mind they can’t see a tumor that’s in your liver – it’s half the price!”
To be fair, this unnamed observer is not directly involved in promoting any particular diagnostic center so the comment did not immediately create concern in our editorial process. But it definitely caught the attention of Dr. L.E. Richey, owner of US Imaging, which has been serving patients and physicians in Texas since 1989. The company owns and operate nine outpatient medical imaging centers in Houston, Sugar Land, Pearland, Beaumont, Bay City and San Antonio.
As it happens, their facility here – Beaumont MRI – is located in an old movie theater on College Street near Gateway Shopping Center. Richey takes sharp exception to the idea that any of his facilities offer substandard care.
“We specialize in taking care of hundreds of thousands of people every year, and we’re not in it just to make a buck,” said Richey. “The quality of what we do is every bit as competitive in the marketplace. It’s like I can have a nice home for $250,000 or you can have another home that costs a million dollars, but in the long run all you do is live in it – and that’s what we’re doing. We’re practicing very effective medicine and taking good care of people, and when somebody says we’re not doing quality work, that is very, very offensive – and just plain wrong,”
Richey said you don’t have to just take his word for it, and cited this statement from Dr. L. Paul Gerson, a board-certified radiologist in private practice in Houston who spent 30 years as chief of neuroradiology at St. Luke’s and Texas Children’s Hospitals.
Gerson said he “was surprised at the negative description of Beaumont MRI.
I don’t know who their ‘local medical observer’ is, but I can tell you that his opinion is wrong” and then offered a blunt assessment: “I think that as a ‘medical observer’ I can judge the quality of MRI studies and I can say that the images produced by Beaumont MRI are perfectly diagnostic. … I can see no justification for their uncalled for and negative portrayal of Beaumont MRI.”
On a recent afternoon, Richey drove over from Houston to give the Business Journal a tour of his facility here. The former movie theater has been tastefully converted into a medical imaging center with no traces of the space where audiences once thrilled to the exploits of Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones.
Beaumont MRI offers a service menu that includes digital X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), MRA, CT scan and ultrasound in a spotless modern facility. During our visit, we observed center administrator Rhonda Rhodes and her staff offering warm, personal service to patients undoubtedly under stress from the health issues that required the diagnostic procedures in the first place. There was nothing “cut-rate” about any aspect of Beaumont MRI and despite the unflattering reference in our previous story, we would be perfectly comfortable with recommending Beaumont MRI to friends and family members.
That is a good thing, because subsequent investigation revealed that a preferred provider for the health insurance policy covering employees and family members at Examiner Corp – parent company of the Business Journal – is Beaumont MRI.
Business Journal editor James Shannon offers a weekly column of business news for readers of The Examiner. For more details, see the editions of the Business journal published monthly in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Greater Orange. Check out the blog at setxbiz.blogspot.com or e-mail james [at] beaumontbusinessjournal [dot] com.