The following originally appeared in the Midlands Business Journal and was written by Becky McCarville. It has been reprinted and lightly edited with permission from the publisher of MBJ Inc.
From a big picture perspective, market disruption impacts many aspects of healthcare, from the shift to value-based and outpatient-focused care to the use of big data sets to drive results, to artificial intelligence and technology that can help hospitals save money.
“We continue to see market disruption in healthcare,” said Cassling President Kyle Salem, Ph.D. “We all see things happening in D.C. that change the way healthcare is practiced, even down to people getting care locally.”
Part of this disruption is a shift to community-focused care, where patients can go to their local clinic for imaging or procedures instead of a hospital, sometimes saving themselves the drive to a larger city.
Imaging, such as MRIs and more, should follow the push to community-based care so diagnoses can be made more quickly, catching diseases more effectively and resulting in better patient outcomes while lowering the overall costs, Salem said.
Bringing vascular imaging and cost-effective technology into a clinical setting is currently a focus.
“We have a mobile C-arm that basically can go anywhere and is a full-blown cardiovascular lab on a little C-arm. You’re able to do vascular-like procedures in a doctor’s office,” said Mike Cassling, CEO of Cassling and president and CEO of CQuence Health Group, parent company to Cassling and Ensocare. “I think we’re going to see more and more in that area as procedures move outside the hospital.”
The goal of value-based care is to drive down healthcare costs while at the same time increasing quality. One of the biggest costs for hospitals is its personnel, yet cutting staff can affect quality.
“I think the challenge we have as an industry is, we’ve squeezed the lemon about as much as we can,” Salem said. “We’re trying to help our customers by producing lower-cost equipment, making sure they can get the best deal they possibly can while keeping equipment running all the time.”
The goal of building artificial intelligence into imaging technology is to improve workflows with less human interaction while still getting optimal results, he said.
“Imaging continues to be a driver from a business perspective for hospitals,” Salem said. “We understand the staffing concerns going on in the industry, whether it’s the fact that hospitals have to cut people because of budgets or they simply can’t find the right people. The ability to create better workflows for the people using the equipment every day is really where the technology’s going.”
The development of robotics in angiography cardiac catheterization has led to a hybrid procedure room/operating room.
“More and more medical specialties have started to use imaging on their own,” Salem said. “It used to be that, if you wanted imaging, you had to go to radiology to access it, but now we see orthopedics, cardiology, pain management, neurology, and the emergency room all bringing imaging into their own departments. All of a sudden we have to touch more people and see more departments to really understand the market.”
One such example is the installation of a robotic cardiac catheterization lab at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center — one of the first in the world for pediatrics, Cassling said.
“Children’s is a local example of robotics and imaging coming together to make things faster, better quality and lower dose — all of which are highly critical, especially in pediatrics,” he said.
To differentiate the 35-year-old company in a competitive and challenging field, Cassling is rolling out company-wide employee and customer experience initiatives, referred to internally as EX and CX. The program doesn’t use employee surveys to build engagement, which is retrospective. EX is proactive and asks employees what they need now to do their best work, they said.
Cassling, whose father, Bob Cassling, started the company in 1984, said a focus on employees and providing the best service has always been part of the culture.
“This was really taking what we’ve always done — we have a great culture dating from 35 years ago — and taking it to a whole new level,” Cassling said. “From the customer experience side, we’ve always said, ‘provide great service to our customers.’ Salespeople and the call centers are focused on that. But now we’re really looking at the total experience of the customer — every interaction they have with us — to find out how can we do it even better.”
Speaking to customer experience, the company is looking at what other services it can provide to help customers deal with challenges, including staffing and ensuring high-quality imaging reads, by potentially partnering with or investing in other companies.
“If we can get that running, it really solves two problems,” Salem said. “One is it contributes significantly to growth, and the other is it changes our customer experience. We’re getting to a point where we can bring in a full solution to somebody’s entire problem.”
Over the last year, Cassling’s sales have grown 12% to 15%, in the $170 million range, with a goal of around $200 million. Its service business continues to grow in the mid-single digits — there’s a lot of competition in that space, Salem said.
As a company, Cassling started working with Siemens in 1999 with a couple of product lines and, in 2001, incorporated all of its products. Now, the company is one of Siemens’s largest global partners, Cassling said.
“Siemens has some of the best technology in the world for imaging, but our customers benefit from a local company presence,” he said.
Cassling’s products and/or services have touched every major hospital and health system in the Omaha and Lincoln area, Salem said. In terms of sales, the company covers the western half of the U.S. — from regional hospital systems to imaging centers and surgery centers in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana and west into California — 22 states in all.
Another major challenge to not just the healthcare industry but also to tech companies like Ensocare, which employs software engineers, is the lack of tech talent in Nebraska. To face the problem, Cassling is heading up a task force, along with the Aksarben Foundation, the Greater Omaha Chamber and the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, that includes about 50 top IT companies.
The company is also looking at remote capabilities to alleviate a shortage of skilled workers, especially in areas like western Nebraska.
Across the three companies — CQuence Health Group, Cassling and Ensocare — there are 200 employees. Leadership said there are about 12 different companies they’re invested in.
Cassling, which has been at its current 50,000-square-foot facility since its start, is set to undergo a complete renovation that, based on employee input, will include a larger break room, bright colors and open, collaborative spaces.