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Knowing what causes screening delays and how to safely assess risks can streamline your MR imaging.
MRI scans routinely provide critical information, but there is a great deal of preparation that goes into making sure a scan is safe for a patient. Does he or she have a metal implant or a medical device? Does that mean there will be extra steps with your scanner to provide an injury-free, diagnostic-quality scan? Or are you facing a delay or cancellation?
The presence of an implant of device does not automatically mean you will have a scheduling disaster. It is possible to successfully image these patients, said Tobias Gilk, Ph.D. senior vice president at RADIOLOGY-Planning, but it requires some forethought and planning on your part.
In a presentation during this year’s AHRA: Association of Medical Imaging Management virtual meeting, he shared insights about the cost associated with not providing timely care, as well as best practices to ensure you do so.
The Price of MRI Delays
It is no secret that MRI scans can be time-consuming under the best of circumstances. However, if you add in the minutes needed for technologist to complete effective device screening, the process gets longer. The parameters and requirements for each scanner are different, but, on average, Gilk said, technologists devote between 6-to-8 hours per scanner per week to figuring out whether it is safe to scan patients who have devices or implants.
If you do the math, he explained, for two scanners, that can equate to 12-to-16 hours weekly that not eligible for reimbursement. In hard dollars, he said, that can potentially add up to a loss of $2,275 each week -- $118,300 in delays each year. Ultimately, he explained, it is possible that time lost to screening patients can cost your practice up to $1.2 million over the 10-year life of an MRI scanner.
Given this hefty impact, he advised, figuring out how to better scan your patient and train your technologists to feel confident in their assessments of whether they can safely clear a patient for a scan can be critical.
Related Content: Q&A: Tackling the Complexity of MR Safety
Best Practice Tips
To ensure your practice is providing MRI experience for your patients based on best practices, there are three tips you should follow, Gilk explained.
“Don’t depend on the training your techs or radiologists might have had before they came to you,” he said. “If your staff and radiologists are nervous about screening patients or are unable to answer questions about specific harm to the patient or they can’t identify potential harm to the patient, they’re not acting in the interest of safety.”
This training includes providing details about the specifics on the types of magnetic fields used in MR imaging, as well as their impacts on the body, Gilk said.
How to Get There
To be sure you can implement those best practices, he said, you will largely need to re-engineer your screening process. You’ll not only need to identify what is behind your screening hiccups, but you will also need the right tools to address the problem.
Identifying delays: Overall, you can organize the root cause of your delays into four categories. Knowing what problems you are facing can help you devise a strategy to address them. Evaluate your situation to determine if any of these are your setback:
Helpful tools: Fortunately, Gilk said, implementing a decision support tool can help you navigate these murky waters.
By following these tips and using these tools – including others that can tell you when to avoid screening, when to seek additional guidance, or when to proceed – you can better streamline your MR imaging processes, Gilk said.
“If you do these things, you will improve safety because you will have people accurately identifying risks and appropriately mitigating them,” he said. “You will spend less time in screening, and you will be able to get the patient into the magnet more effectively and efficiently.”