Imaging center offers tribute to romance

February 14, 2007

Pacific Coast Ultrasound of Los Alamitos, CA, operates at the nexus between medical need and self-indulgence, specializing in prenatal diagnostics and medically supervised 3D/4D prenatal elective ultrasounds. Throughout February, the center, which positions itself as a certified independent diagnostic facility, promotes a month-long tribute to Valentine’s Day.

Pacific Coast Ultrasound of Los Alamitos, CA, operates at the nexus between medical need and self-indulgence, specializing in prenatal diagnostics and medically supervised 3D/4D prenatal elective ultrasounds. Throughout February, the center, which positions itself as a certified independent diagnostic facility, promotes a month-long tribute to Valentine's Day.

Expectant parents can get a real-time 3D presentation of their fetuses at the business end of a high-performance diagnostic ultrasound system.

"The couples' experience with the 3D/4D ultrasound is deeply touching and loving," said Darlene Ginnett, the owner of Pacific Coast Ultrasound.

She emphasizes her 14-year experience as a registered diagnostic medical sonographer, BA degree in radiology sciences, and graduation from an accredited ultrasound program in Southern California.

Ginnett is treading new ground to broaden her center's revenue base beyond the patient-driven screening for heart disease and cancer that has typified past efforts by freestanding imaging centers. This model might be applied by other centers to offset the difficult outpatient reimbursement environment created by Medicare cutbacks and the Deficit Reduction Act passed last year by the U.S. Congress, she said.

Only about 20% of the scans at Pacific Coast Ultrasound are ordered by physicians, Ginnett notes, adding that she is working to increase the number of prescribed scans. The other 80% are patient-driven electives, women looking for 3D pix and 4D movies of their fetuses. But these women can't just walk in, she said. They must have already had a second trimester diagnostic ultrasound and a doctor's signature on a permission form provided by the imaging center.

"The form states clearly that we are going to perform an elective ultrasound," Ginnett said. "It gives the physician an opportunity to let us know if there are any concerns with the pregnancy. If the physician is not comfortable with signing, we don't see that patient. That has happened many times, and the patients are disappointed."

Ginnett is pushing "the month of love" as a time for her center to help parents-to-be celebrate their pending arrival, promoting scan discounts on her center's Web site and in presentations hosted by Babies "R" Us, an offshoot of the Toys "R" Us chain.

Patients can choose from packages beginning at about $175 (less with discounts and promotions). Pricing depends on the length of the 4D movie and the number of still images downloaded to the customer-provided DVD.

Customers' first glimpse of these images comes in the center's "family theater" on a 6 x 8-foot screen accompanied by surround sound music. Showing the fetus to parents for the first time, in real-time, is a very emotional experience, Ginnett said.

"When that first image is shown, there is always a collective gasp of awe, and then the tears," said Ginnett, who noted that expectant parents often share the experience with in-laws and other relatives.

Those images are delivered courtesy of a Voluson 730 Expert 3D/4D Ultrasound System, GE's flagship diagnostic ultrasound system. In its promotions, the Pacific Coast center hawks the 3D/4D capability, but Ginnett notes that some keepsake facilities in neighboring shopping malls may have the same. What differentiates Pacific Coast Ultrasound is the staff and their approach, she said.

"Our staff consists of registered, certified sonographers with more than 30 years' combined experience in multiple specialties," Ginnett said. "We do serious diagnostics and imaging here."