James Polfreman keeps a book in his office called “Everything Men Know About Women.” Inside, the pages are blank. Although the fairer gender may be enigmatic to many, Polfreman has made it his business to learn what women want from their healthcare experience. Over the last five years, he has built Solis Mammography into the nation’s largest independent provider of screening and diagnostics for breast health.
He can tell you what women don’t want: paperwork, long waits, and a stressful experience. “We get a lot of feedback and we listen very carefully,” says Polfreman, a native of South Africa who immigrated to the United States in 1999. At Solis, he is applying the same business model that worked when he led the retail healthcare group at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston: Treat patients like family members, personalize their experience, and employ an entrepreneurial mindset. That means doing things like offering online scheduling, using iPads to handle check-ins, and providing care quickly and in a calming environment. “That’s been the thesis and the genesis for all the things we’ve tried to do in healthcare,” Polfreman says.
When he joined Solis in 2011, the Addison-based company was five years shy of its 30th anniversary and experiencing some management challenges. He got to work filling key posts, partnering with Houston-based Rose Imaging Specialists, the largest breast specialty radiology group in the country, and growing the number of locations to 39—with 21 in North Texas. Since his arrival, revenue has increased more than 250 percent and is projected to hit $120 million this year.
In North Texas, Solis has eight ventures with HCA, two with Community Health Systems, and is exploring options with big hospitals. “We have a model that’s very scalable,” Polfreman says. It’s also making big plays in technology. Solis has invested $16 million in 3D mammography in the past 30 months and plans to add more of the units, which markedly improve accuracy by screening tissue one layer at a time. The company is expected to perform 572,000 procedures this year, but if Polfreman’s expansion plans play out over the next five years, he expects to have 80 locations that perform 1.2 million annual procedures.
Solis recapitalized in 2015 and secured an infusion of cash from private equity firms the Audax Group and Frazier Healthcare Partners. An acquisition in May expanded its predominantly female employee count to 600, up from 350.
Polfreman also is actively lobbying in Washington to ensure that patients over 40 get the coverage they need for early detection and improved survival rates. “The beauty of this business, which I feel very passionate about, is trying to grow and see more patients,” he says. “I know without a shadow of a doubt that every patient we see is benefiting from what we provide. These are life-improving services.”