Soothing pediatric imaging fears: Experts discuss options

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | March 18, 2019
From the March 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

“It allows patients to choose their own movies or take part in interactive experiences, like swimming with the dolphins or exploring space,” said Micah Kight, radiology imaging manager at Arkansas Children’s Northwest. “It used to be that you would just lie on the table without any distractions. No audio, no video – just the noise of the machine. Now, it has transformed into a fully interactive in-bore experience.”

The use of visuals has become commonplace in imaging environments, with TV screens fitted within the MR scanner and specialized goggles handed out to watch movies or TV series during exams. Some even consider such technology and immersive experiences to be a stepping stone in the development of virtual and augmented reality tools.

The cost of this equipment, though, can be dear, and out of the price range of many providers. Howe’s own company is currently trying to address this problem with the development of an affordable video display called MRIview that provides movies or TV shows for patients to watch during scans, and at the same time, is equipped with a camera to allow staff to monitor the patient to ensure they are safe, comfortable, positioned correctly and not moving.

“Some video displays can cost upward of $40-$50,000, which is a lot of money for our target audience of clinical MR centers,” he said. “We’re trying to design a video system that will be priced around $10,000. I would say about 80 percent of MRs in the U.S. have some form of audio entertainment, and I think video is becoming the next big thing. If you’re going to watch any type of entertainment, you need both audio and video.”

Christoffer Endresen, a regional sales manager in Norway, Sweden and Denmark for NordicNeuroLab, says that while pricey, such innovations can be worth it in the long-run for a hospital’s return on investment.

“For the hospitals that don’t focus on it, they should actually look at the real numbers that they have. Most are unaware of how much fear is costing them, especially when it comes to MR,” he said. “How many scans are aborted? How many require anesthesia and sedation? How much does it cost to perform the procedure and use more time? That sums up the whole price of fear.”

Echoing this sentiment is Paul Bullwinkel, president of Avotec, who says that shifts in value-based care have changed the game of reimbursements, and that fears of children can make all the difference in what a provider gets back financially.

“If you’re going to bill the insurance company, but fail to actually complete the exam based on how much time you said it would be, the insurer will pay you based on that specific time period you put down,” he said. “In other words, if you said it would take an hour, they will pay you for an hour, even if it took two hours to complete. This is a new incentive for trying to be productive. This really hurts the bottom line.”

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