We spoke to Dr. Blaise Jones, Section Chief of Neuroradiology, Director of MR Safety and Patient Flow Leader, about scheduling MRI exams and why it can take so long to get your child into the schedule.
Dandino: Dr. Jones, we often receive a lot of feedback from our families about how frustrating it can be to schedule a timely MRI appointment at Children’s Hospital’s Main Base location. When they call in to get the exam scheduled, it is often 3, 4, or even 6 weeks before they can get a spot on the schedule. Why is it so difficult to book a time?
Dr. Jones: That’s a great question, Tony. As most of our patients and families know, we have a lot of MR scanners here at the main hospital and multiple additional scanners at our satellite locations in Green Township, Liberty Township, and Kenwood. With such a large number of machines it would seem like we should be able to get our patients their MRI scans in no time at all. As a matter of fact, if you call in the morning to get a brain MRI performed on a 14-year-old with new severe headaches, we can usually do it on the same day; however, a lot of our patients have special needs that make it more difficult to seamlessly fit them into the schedule.
One of the most common special needs we address is that many children require general anesthesia or sedation in order to lay still for an MR scan. While we have numerous MRI scanners, we have only a limited number of anesthesia resources. We often advise parents that if they believe their child might be able to hold still without being put to sleep, it is a good idea to try. We have movie goggles so they can watch a favorite movie or cartoon during the exam, which can help relieve a lot of anxiety. While a lot of younger children have a tough time lying still, some will do surprisingly well.
Another special need we attempt to accommodate is that a lot of our families want to have their MR imaging done on the same day as their clinic appointment and at the same location. This is certainly understandable, especially when they have to travel a long way to the medical center or take off work. The issue with scheduling is it means a large quantity of patients are now trying to get into a smaller number of slots. There are only a limited amount of availabilities in the morning at the Burnet campus, which causes a backlog in scheduling. Some advice I would give is if you are local, you are almost always better off getting the exam done several days before your doctor’s appointment. You will be able to choose from more locations, and you won’t run the risk of being delayed if the MRI schedule is running slow, as it sometimes does. There will also be more time for your exam to be interpreted and your doctor to make a treatment plan based upon the results.
Dandino: I have also heard from several families that they worry if they get their MRI scan at one of our satellite locations they won’t be getting the same level of expertise as they would get from the Burnet campus. Is this true?
Dr. Jones: Well, they should know that the same doctors, nurses, and technologists who perform the exams at the base also perform the studies at the satellites, and some of our newest and most patient-friendly equipment is found there. Our families should also know we are constantly reviewing the scheduling backlog and working on strategies to reduce wait times while keeping the high levels of quality and safety we pride ourselves on achieving.
I would just like to ask that our patients and families consider the above factors when trying to schedule their next appointments. They may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly they can get their exams taken care of and moving onto the next step.
Contributed by Dr. Blaise Jones and edited by Tony Dandinao, (RT-MRI).