Doctor Profile: David C. Jones, MD
Dr. David C. Jones is the owner of The Centers for Cancer Care, a group of free standing radiation therapy clinics in the Texas Hill Country. In his interview Dr. Jones explains how reimbursement cuts in radiation therapy and uncertain economic times are impeding the growth of his practices, and more importantly how he is overcoming these obstacles.
1. How do you think free standing radiation oncology facilities will thrive moving forward?
Dr. Jones: We will have to do more with less money and watch our overhead like a hawk. ROS has already given us a huge advantage by keeping our upfront capital costs reasonable, so now it's OUR job to be smart with our ongoing fixed and variable costs. In the small-town markets that are our niche we don't have the patient numbers to let those numbers get away from us. We are already frugal, but when payers trim revenue a well run practice has to trim expense.
2. How have you managed to differentiate your practice from others around you?
Dr. Jones: It may seem counterintuitive, but we've proactively upgraded equipment and facilities so our referring physicians can see we aren't resting on our laurels. We are doing what it takes to stay the "go to practice" in our area. We just do it with an eye toward value and treatment capability - not glitz.
3. What would you tell doctors who might be interested in refurbished equipment, but are still uncertain?
Dr. Jones: I'd say "What are you afraid of?". Every patient in America was treated on a used Linac today unless they literally were the 7 AM appointment on a just installed, just calibrated machine and that patient will be treated on a used Linac tomorrow. The only difference between our Linac and a shiny new unit is ours is rock solid because all of the inevitable glitches found in any new electronics this complex have long since been recognized, isolated and cleared leaving us perfectly centered within all our parameters with a reliable, predictable beam. No surprises!
4. Do you think a new machine is inherently safer than a used machine?
Dr. Jones: Of course not. We practice in one of the most highly regulated segments (radiation oncology) in one of the most highly regulated fields of endeavor (American healthcare) on the planet. PhD level medical physicists and engineers scrutinize every conceivable aspect of our equipment before we ever come near a clinical "beam on" then continue doing equally meticulous daily checks, ongoing QA protocols, routine PMI's and more on a rigorous schedule. It doesn't make the slightest difference whether a piece of equipment is brand-new or previously owned, we don't treat until the beam that comes out of one end is perfect. Do you lose sleep over whether the hardware in your municipal Water plant is shiny new or not or do you care that the water that comes out of your tap has been rigorously tested and guaranteed pure, clean and safe? Think about it!
5. What is in store for the free standing center in the next five years?
Dr. Jones: Well my crystal ball is down for preventive maintenance at the moment so I'll just have to guess! :-) I believe they will be virtually integrated with all surrounding subspecialist, primary care and medical oncology clinics for seamless coordination of care. I believe they will have more miniaturized less obtrusive equipment ingeniously designed to require less shielding so that the capital cost involved in vault building and clinic construction will have fallen to the point that smaller and smaller communities can have the blessing of quality radiotherapy care close to home. And, of course, ideally at least a few of them, will have signage saying "The Centers for Cancer Care" over their door!
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