Sound Imaging, a formerly freestanding clinic on North Grove Street in Lincolnton, closed last Friday after being purchased by Carolinas Medical Center-Lincoln.
Prior to the acquisition, the clinic, once named Blue Ridge Radiology, was the last independently owned imaging center in Western North Carolina.
Pete Acker, President and CEO of CMC-Lincoln, told the Times-News on Friday that the decision to acquire the facility was a fairly recent development. It resulted, he said, from Morganton-based Blue Ridge Radiology Associates (whose Lincolnton location was the Sound Imaging practice) merging with Blue Ridge HealthCare.
Following that merger, the companies decided it no longer made sense to operate a satellite office in Lincolnton, said Acker. That presented CMC-Lincoln with an opportunity to take over the practice, which Acker noted “complemented local services” already provided by the hospital.
Employees of Sound Imaging were “offered the opportunity to come on board” with the hospital, he added. However, of the roughly 10 on staff, only two chose to do so. The rest, he said, decided to pursue work at other health-care providers.
Sound Imaging Practice Manager Lisa Antley declined to comment on the purchase.
The clinic, in a closing notice to patients posted on its website, said, “We have enjoyed working with you and appreciate the confidence you have shown in us by allowing us to care for you.”
Acker acknowledged that the benefit of Sound Imaging as a freestanding clinic was its ability to provide services at lesser costs to patients. In order to eventually maintain that pricing, the hospital is in the process of seeking approval from both the state and then insurance companies to retain the clinicâ€™s fee schedule.
Certificate of Need regulations require health-care providers to seek approval to offer services at different prices. Acker expects to hear back from the state in June, though approval from insurance companies regarding rates may take longer.
“That process, unfortunately, could take to the end of the year,” he said.
As a result, CMC-Lincoln decided to close the Sound Imaging office and store its equipment for the time being, with the plan to transfer its services to the hospitalâ€™s Denver imaging center, near the intersection of N.C. 16 and N.C. 73, after approval is obtained. Acker expects this wonâ€™t happen until the beginning of next year.
He notes that the office will then have the same staff size and equipment, but with more competitive pricing.
As the Times-News previously reported, Sound Imaging was recently awarded a three-year term of accreditation in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and OB and abdominal ultrasound as the result of a recent review by the American College of Radiology (ACR). The ACR gold seal of accreditation represents the highest level of image quality and patient safety.
The clinic also acquired a 3-D digital mammography machine, the first in the state, in October. At the time, there were fewer than 100 of these state-of-the-art digital tomosynthesis mammography machines nationwide.
The technology offers women earlier detection, fewer callbacks and greater diagnostic accuracy over traditional 2-D machines. Michael Streppa, former business manager for Sound Imaging, told the Times-News last fall that he expected the device to expand the practiceâ€™s patient base and also emphasized its “competitive pricing.”
Acker noted that the 3-D equipment was leased by the practice. The lease runs through the fall, after which he said CMC-Lincoln would probably not renew it due to “similar technology and capability” already owned by the hospital.
Patients of Sound Imaging with questions concerning appointments, report requests and retrieval of images should call CMC-Lincolnâ€™s radiology department at (980) 212-1400. Questions regarding billing may be directed to (828) 433-1206.