Alliance operates about 100 MRI systems in 36 states, with one-third situated at fixed sites on hospital campuses, Zehner said. SMT has 20 MRI machines, all mobile, operating in seven Eastern states.
While the overall number of MRI units at Alliance has remained fairly steady over the past several years, much of the equipment has been turned over for newer technology, he said. This reflects an industry that is mature in terms of total MRI systems but growing in procedures and revenue.
Reimbursement for MRI scans has declined significantly over the past decade, from a height of around $1500 per procedure to $600 now, he said. Consequently, MRI profit margins for the mobile companies and their healthcare provider customers have been squeezed.
On the bright side, however, lower procedure prices have spurred demand and volume, while financially adept hospital administrators have taken the emotional factor out of MRI purchases, Zehner said. Hospitals can often see the advantage in saving their capital for other purposes than acquiring a shiny new MRI machine. This, in turn, aids the shared service providers.
"The hospital's goal today is to provide services, attract key physicians, maximize dollars because dollars are under tremendous squeeze, and spend as little as possible on capital expenditures," Zehner said.