As a radiation oncology specialist with a background in health care administration, Eric Haberichter saw firsthand how much it was costing working people to have an MRI scan completed.
It was after repeatedly seeing consumers rack up anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 in medical costs for a simple scan that Haberichter and two other medical professionals decided to found Smart Choice MRI at 1621 Miller Park Way.
Since its founding in 2006, Smart Choice MRI has been offering patients the same all-inclusive price of $600 for every MRI. The cost includes medical interpretation of the scan by Radiology Waukesha, the team that serves all of the hospitals in the Waukesha area.
“We have a 99.6-percent customer satisfaction rating,” Haberichter says. “Our business is up over 300 percent this year, so we think it’s really starting to catch on.”
Because MRIs have become more prevalent in diagnostic medicine, the demand for scans has increased. The high costs of MRIs can be attributed to the high overhead that hospitals incur, and those expenses are passed on to patients. Smart Choice is able to pass on savings by keeping its overhead to a minimum. By concentrating on MRIs only, Smart Choice is able to provide the best scanning technology at the lowest cost.
“The majority of our patients are sophisticated consumers who have high -deductible insurance or health savings accounts,” Haberichter said. “And we are being widely accepted by the health care payer communities such as Humana.”
When he was working as director of imaging services for one of the hospital groups in the Milwaukee area, Haberichter realized that with the disparity in costs, there was an opportunity to create an outpatient MRI business.
“What I saw both through my father (who had cancer) and working with my patients, even if you survive cancer, the medical system is financially devastating — it just zaps you,” he said. “We don’t have to make $1,000 on one scan. We operate on a 25- to 30-percent margin, not 3,000 percent like the hospitals do on these products.
“MRI’s are almost never emergencies,” he said. “They can be done outside a hospital, which are very, very expensive. I think we are trying to do some good in an environment where far too often profiteering is the main goal.”