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Mobile PET relieves hardship for rural cancer patients

por John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent | June 18, 2019
Molecular Imaging
From the June 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Having grown up in a town of population 1,600 in South Dakota, Todd C. Lane, director of imaging services at Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District in Brawley, California, has a unique perspective about providing mobile PET services in a rural community.

Early in his career he not only served as a tech in mobile imaging units, but he also drove the truck. These days, he is steering the business from beyond the driver’s seat, navigating an evolving imaging marketplace to achieve operational improvements and a better business model for delivering mobile PET.

Brawley, is a small agricultural town in the Imperial Valley not far from the Mexican border. The town is served by 107-bed Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District Hospital with a 16-bed ER that is “overrun nonstop," according to Lane, predominantly with Medicare and Medicaid patients. The facility performs 90,000 imaging studies a year, which keeps five full-time radiologists busy providing a wide array of imaging services, including interventional radiology.
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Lane has been at the hospital near continuously since 1986. He started as a CT technologist and also performed special procedures, eventually transitioning to PACS administrator, and onward to chief imaging technologist. He is now serving his second stint as director of the imaging department.

The hospital began its mobile PET services about seven years ago to provide better care to local cancer patients. Pioneers’ Cancer Institute sees patients Monday through Thursday for cancer staging and chemo treatments. That course of treatment then leads to about four to eight patients every Friday for PET scans. Before bringing mobile PET to its campus, oncology patients had to make a 100-mile drive to either get their imaging in San Diego or Palm Springs.

“Mobile PET saves our cancer patients from having to go great distances when they don’t feel well, and having to incur the expense of a hotel room,” said Lane. “We are also working toward offering prostate and brain metabolic studies.”

The community has a higher than average cancer rate, according to Lane. He speculated this was due to chemicals associated with the regional agriculture industry and poor air quality that blows north over the border from Mexicali, a large urban center of over 1 million people. Because Brawley is below sea level, smog can build up, depending on weather conditions.

This past November, in a decision to improve operating efficiencies, Lane switched mobile PET services to a different vendor, DMS Health Technologies. He said he made the switch to get access to more boots-on-the ground marketing support and to take over the billing for PET services.

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