Tips To Pick Best Imaging Site
Your doctor has just handed you an order for a mammogram; or a heart CT; or a brain MRI. Now what?
While the choice of imaging facilities has never been greater or more convenient, it pays to ask a few questions before picking a site. The ability of the technologist who takes the image can vary widely; imaging technology is advancing at a fast clip, rendering older machines obsolete; and the expertise and availability of the doctor who interprets the results may cover a wide range.
Duane Mezwa, M.D., interim director, Radiology Services, Beaumont Hospitals, offers the following tips to evaluate imaging facilities:
1. Accreditation/COE: Is the facility accredited by a major accrediting body such as the American College of Radiology? Is the site a Center of Excellence? For example, the Beaumont Hospitals in Royal Oak and Troy and the Beaumont Medical Centers in Warren and West Bloomfield are Centers of Excellence for mammography, as designated by the ACR.
2. Board-certified, fellowship trained radiologists: All Beaumont radiologists are board-certified. A number of the radiologists also have a Certificate of Added Qualification in neuroradiology, pediatrics, interventional radiology or nuclear medicine. These fellowship-trained sub-specialists are always available for consultation.
3. Highly trained staff: At Beaumont, technologists are registered - meaning they've met certain education and certifying exam requirements - and are board-certified in specialty areas such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, CT, mammography and pediatric imaging. In addition, all staff who use contrast for CT or magnetic resonance imaging are certified in basic and/or advanced cardiac life support in case of a reaction.
4. When children need imaging: Use only facilities with pediatric radiologists on staff. The ACR has a campaign in which Beaumont participates, Image Gently, that specifies dosage be reduced for children.
5. Availability: Some centers use freelance radiologists who aren't always there to provide consultation on the films they read. Look for a center with radiologists who are available 24/7/365.
6. Latest technology: Large health systems, especially those that are major academic and referral centers, tend to have the newest equipment such as open magnetic resonance imaging and digital mammography. The newer the equipment, the better and clearer the images. Also, newer generation equipment generally has fine tuned the radiation dosage, meaning less exposure.
7. Ability to perform diagnostics on the spot: If something suspicious is detected at a freestanding facility and a biopsy is indicated, you are sent to the hospital for a biopsy.
8. Access to results: Imaging done at Beaumont is accessible to Beaumont doctors in their homes and offices via the Internet. This means no more waiting for a report to be sent and no more picking up and transporting images to the doctor's office.
9. Personalized service: At Beaumont, all mammography technologists give their business card to patients. If a patient is particularly pleased with that technologist, she can request that staff member for her next visit.
10. Convenience: With 12 imaging centers in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, radiology services are never more than minutes away from patients' homes. Beaumont has a program, "Any Test, Any Time," in which patients needing a mammogram, general X-ray or CT can obtain the service on a walk-in basis with authorization from their insurance company. Additionally, Beaumont, Royal Oak and Troy and its medical centers in Lake Orion, Macomb and West Bloomfield have extended hours for imaging.