MR Cooperative focuses center purchasing power

April 21, 1993

The MR Cooperative hopes strength in numbers will help its membersweather tough times in store for the imaging center industry.The center association is negotiating group discounts on everythingfrom contrast agents to equipment upgrades by grouping its

The MR Cooperative hopes strength in numbers will help its membersweather tough times in store for the imaging center industry.The center association is negotiating group discounts on everythingfrom contrast agents to equipment upgrades by grouping its memberstogether to enhance purchasing leverage.

MR Cooperative was formed in 1984 and initially made a namefor itself providing information services to imaging centers.The Solana Beach, CA, organization publishes a quarterly newsletteron the business of medical imaging and also conducts frequentsurveys of its members on center operations.

Recently, the association began moving beyond the informationservices niche. Given the large size of MR Cooperative's membershipbase, group purchasing seemed a natural way to provide concrete,cash-saving benefits to members, according to Scott Raymond, directorof member services.

"We're looking at any opportunity to maximize the valueof being a member of the Cooperative and to provide attractivediscounts because of our purchasing power," Raymond toldSCAN.

MR Cooperative has offered a film discount to members for aboutthree years, according to Raymond. The association's experiencewith the discount, however, points to the necessity of securingvolume commitments from members. While MR Cooperative receivesa discount of almost 50% on film prices from one manufacturer,its agreement with another vendor has fizzled.

"Because we weren't offering a volume commitment, thediscount wasn't any better than what a single, individual centerwould get," Raymond said. "It wasn't worth promoting."

Whipping its members into shape on purchasing decisions willbe MR Cooperative's major task in the coming months.

"If we can produce volume, then we start looking likea large hospital or a group purchasing organization and can carrya little more weight (in negotiations with manufacturers)."

In addition to snaring discounts from other film manufacturers,Raymond plans to pursue group prices on contrast agents, managementinformation software and ancillary products such as noise cancellationsystems.

While group purchases of scanners are probably beyond MR Cooperative'spurview, Raymond sees equipment upgrades, particularly new software,as one area in which the organization can unite and improve centerpurchasing power.

MR Cooperative has a membership of 600, with a database of2800 centers. Membership dues are $200 for centers and $300 formanufacturers.

If the association is successful in coordinating the purchasingpatterns of its members, the dollars saved will help these imagingcenters survive an increasingly hostile economic environment.

"One of the motivations for us to pursue these group purchasingdiscounts is that people are going to be paid less per procedure,"Raymond said. "It's going to be harder and harder to maintainthe volume needed to keep centers economically viable, so if youcan cut costs it will help folks maintain operations. That's whatwe're all about."

BRIEFLY NOTED:

  • Picker International reported last month that it snareda $6.7 million order for MRI and CT equipment and service contractsfrom mobile provider Alliance Imaging of Tustin, CA. The $5 millionequipment purchase will include two of Picker's new 1.5-teslaEdge systems, one Vista Q 1-tesla system and one IQ Premier CTscanner, as well as a number of MR angiography upgrades for Alliance'sexisting scanners. Alliance also made commitments for $1.7 millionin service contracts.

The Edge unit, unveiled at last year's Radiological Societyof North America meeting, is pending Food and Drug Administrationclearance, according to a Picker spokesperson. Alliance is currentlyoperating 71 MR scanners, an Alliance spokesperson said.