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The MR patient experience

por Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | September 24, 2018
Avotec's Silent Scan 1
From the September 2018 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

MR has long held the notorious distinction of being one of the less comfortable medical imaging exams.

From the noise to the exam length, to the cramped quarters and the need for contrast, there are plenty of things for patients to dislike about the experience.

Fortunately, as providers turn their attention increasingly toward patient satisfaction, some of the unpleasant aspects of a visit to the MR suite are being scrutinized and chipped away.
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Visual and audio equipment, open MR scanners and noise reduction software are all important components of patient comfort, but when it comes to the human touch – there is no substitute for a good technologist.

“We sell equipment that helps the patient and technologist, but it’s really about the interface between the technologist and the patient,” said Paul Bullwinkel, president of Avotec, a company that specializes in MR accessories. “That is going to set the tone for how the exam is going to go.”

Even an MR suite that has invested in patient comfort tools, such as headphones for music or patient communication, needs to have technologists on staff who will take the time to provide them to the patient. According to Bullwinkel, a “low-end” technologist might be in too much of a hurry to bother with the headphones, which could backfire on them since an uncomfortable patient may prolong the exam.

MR sites typically run on very tight schedules and it’s the responsibility of the technologists to ensure the exams are running on time. If they fail to do so, it could have a negative effect on the facility’s bottom line.

“If it’s outcome-based, they are only going to pay you for doing the scan once,” said Thomas Lie Omdahl, vice president of sales and marketing for NordicNeuroLab AS, a company specializing in enhancement tools for advanced scans like fMRI. “If it takes you extended time or three or four times, then you pay for it. You can’t bill the insurance company because it didn’t work the first time.”

Those concerns come into play when a facility has technologists who are in a rush or, for example, require 20 or 30 minutes to persuade a child to lie on the scanner bed.

“If a site is truly to deliver patient comfort, the personnel interacting with the patient need to be skilled at making the patient feel at ease,” Lie Omdahl added. “It is important that MR technologists have received the necessary training to deal with patients from all age groups. “

However, more work needs to be done to ensure they receive that training. Colleagues of Bullwinkel divulged to him that technologists receive very little to almost no training on helping patients cope with the noise that MR scanners make.

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