New medical imaging center to raise competition bar in Glenwood Springs

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Crews work on installing the new MRI machine at Compass Peak Imaging on Monday. The new, stand-alone private imaging center on west Midland Avenue is slated to open this spring.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

A new medical imaging center that’s slated to open in Glenwood Springs this spring looks to expand options for customers who have private insurance, or who are able to pay out of pocket and want to do some price shopping.

Construction at the new Compass Peak Imaging Center in the Midland Center at 120 Midland Avenue, just west of the Glenwood Meadows shopping center, has been ongoing since last fall.

On Monday, a new, state-of-the-art MRI machine was delivered and installed using a 100-ton crane, and the center’s new CT scan machine is due to arrive next week, said Jeff Vichick, director for Compass Peak.

“We are excited to be nearing completion,” Vichick said. “Our goal is to bring Glenwood Springs an improved medical imaging option at a very competitive price.”

The new, for-profit clinic is the brainchild of owner and chief radiologist Dr. Elizabeth Kulwiec, who has been practicing for more than two decades at Valley View Hospital and is now striking out on her own. Vichick has worked with Kulwiec for about 18 years.

The 10,000-square-foot facility will provide MR, CT, X-ray and ultrasound imaging.

“In this world of high deductibles, whether you have insurance or not you’re often paying the first $3,000 to $5,000 of your medical expenses out of pocket,” Vichick said. “The impetus for this project was to see if we can’t provide a more cost-effective solution for imaging services in the community.”

Compass Peak will work on a referral basis with area physicians, providing an option to in-hospital services at Valley View and Glenwood Medical Associates, or Grand River Hospital in Rifle, he said.

The center’s new General Electric, 1.5-Tesla MRI machine will be the only one of its kind on Colorado’s Western Slope, Vichick said. It is expected to reduce the amount of time an imaging procedure takes by about 40 to 50 percent, depending on the type of imaging needed, he said.

The private, stand-alone center will not, however, take Medicare and Medicaid patients, at least not to start. Mammography will also not be among its services at first, he said.

“We will look at that closely for the future, but we do feel that those patients are being well taken care of by the current systems,” Vichick said.

The new imaging center will bring some competition for the nonprofit Valley View Hospital and other in-hospital or clinical services in the region.

Just in the last year, however, the pricing landscape has changed significantly, said Charlie Crevling, chief financial officer for Valley View.

An MRI, for instance, now runs about $995, pre-insurance. That’s more than a 50 percent cost reduction from just last summer, Crevling said.

“We have become very cost competitive compared to what you see in the market today,” he said. “We want to keep people local, instead of going to Denver, and we’d like to provide those services here at the best value that we can offer.”

While the cost for an imaging procedure might still be less in Denver or other urban markets, Crevling said Valley View’s goal has been to be more price competitive when factoring in travel costs for people to leave the area.

“Part of our mission is also to serve everyone in our community, so we would never not take Medicare and Medicaid, and we provide a sliding scale for those who need that help,” Crevling said.

In-hospital imaging services also have the advantage of being in the same building as other services that may be needed, as well as the opportunity for immediate follow-up with specialists, he noted.

“Valley View intends to be market competitive across all of our services, to the best of our ability,” he said.

Vichick acknowledged that a free-standing imaging center is a new concept for this area, but they have taken off in Denver and other urban markets.

“Based on the current offerings in the area, we were seeing that people are leaving town and driving to the Front Range to save money,” Vichick said. “There’s no way people should have to leave Glenwood to do that.”

Compass Peak expects to open with about 10 employees and will expand as demand grows, he said.