PET scanning added to Metro cancer services

August 23, 2009
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Metro Health Hospital plans to introduce weekend PET scanning services to primarily serve its fledgling cancer program, COO Brian Jepson said.

The hospital is seeking permission from the Michigan Department of Community Health's Certificate of Need program to join a network as the host of a mobile PET scanner on Saturdays, Jepson said.

The network, Michigan Mobile PET, is a subsidiary of McLaren Health Care in Flint. The same network serves locations in Bay City, Flint, Lansing, Lapeer and Clarkston, according to Metro Health's CON letter of intent.

PET scanners combine nuclear medicine with images produced by computed tomography. The patient is injected with a short-lived radioactive isotope, and emissions from it then are attracted to certain areas, such as tumors. Combined with images from a CT scan conducted at the same time, the PET scan produces images that help doctors pinpoint tumors, their size and stage of progression. The technology also is used in neurology and cardiology.

The Cancer Center at Metro Health Village opened last year. Medical oncology services are overseen by Dr. Michael Zakem, while radiation oncology is provided in a joint venture with the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and overseen by U-M faculty member Dr. Julie Forstner.

"It's really part of our plan to provide comprehensive outpatient cancer services at Metro," Jepson said. "It's something Dr. Zakem has been asking for, for a long time — the ability to have patients who need PET scans to have them at Metro."

Currently PET scans are performed at Saint Mary's Health Care and Spectrum Health in Kent County, and Metro's cancer patients are referred there, Jepson said.

Until January, Spectrum and Saint Mary's ran a joint venture that provided PET scan services. The joint venture was established in 2004, when the technology was new and neither hospital generated enough volume to support its own machine under CON standards. The joint venture was dismantled with the opening of Spectrum's Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion and an increase in volume as PET usage broadened.

The average charge per scan at Metro is expected to be $2,766, less than half of the $5,855 average charge at Saint Mary's, according to the Alliance for Health, a local nonprofit health planning agency that has endorsed all three PET scan programs.

However, charges affect only patients who are among the 1 million Michigan citizens without insurance or who choose private pay.

Revenue from health coverage provided by Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, health maintenance organizations and other payers is expected to average $1,369 at Metro Health, compared to $1,750 at Spectrum Health and $1,498 at Saint Mary's, according to the Alliance for Health.

The average cost per scan at Metro Health is anticipated to be 1.5 times Spectrum's average cost.

It costs Spectrum, which has the highest volume of cancer patients in Kent County, an average of $853 to perform a scan, while Metro Health expects an average cost of $1,330. Saint Mary's average cost per scan was reported at $1,230, according to the Alliance for Health analysis.

As it moved to housing its own PET scanner, Spectrum expected to clear an average $897 per unit of PET service, while Saint Mary's anticipated net revenue of $267. Metro Health reported an expected net of $39.

Metro Health intends to use a concrete slab already installed on the hospital's northwest side. The hospital won't hire any additional staff, because that's included in its $255,320 annual contract with Michigan Mobile PET.

PET scans in Grand Rapids

Average Revenue
Average Cost of Service
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Saint Mary’s
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Source: Alliance for Health

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