As a consumer-driven patient exploring your options in health care, it can help to have a guide with questions to ask your physicians before you go in for your procedure or your appointment. When comparing imaging centers, it’s important to remember that you have a choice and can go anywhere you want. It’s a good idea to know how to find the best diagnostic imaging providers in your area, you can do this by price shopping, comparing online reviews and checking out their patient resources page within their website.
Let’s say you need an affordable CAT Scan, for this scenario, do you know what questions to ask your diagnostic imaging center?
Side Note: In order to make this a little more exciting we thought we’d add some cats to the equation, because who doesn’t love funny internet cat photos?
1. How do the prices for their imaging procedures compare to other radiology centers and/or hospitals in the area?
“Oh, you don’t have insurance? Yes, that will be one BILLION dollars please.”
Remember that sometimes hospital-owned centers or locations partnered with universities could have higher priced procedures than independent imaging centers, AKA: IDTFs.
2. Does the imaging center come recommended by other physicians in the community?
“No this tie is not a clip on. They told us in med school to always dress professionally for patients.”
You don’t have to go where your family doctor refers you, but if they do recommend an imaging center to you there is probably a reason. Ask why they referred you there; it could be because they like their image portal, or because they have a partnership with them or just because they like that physicians’ reports. Your physician might not care about helping you find the cheapest MRI, but they definitely want the best quality scan available.
3. Is the imaging center accredited by the American College of Radiology? Do the radiologists have any special certifications or are they sub-specialized?
“This is my award for giving the best CAT scans. Get it… get it?”
All of the imaging centers on www.saveonmedical.com are accredited by the ACR. It’s basically the ante to get to our price transparency table, so to speak. Be sure to ask about subspecialties for the radiologists as well. This is especially important for musculoskeletal injuries.
4. Does the radiology center have up to date imaging technology?
“I know this hardware looks intimidating, but I assure you, it is the best of the best.”
This is a good question to ask, but it’s also not a make-or-break deal. Just because a center’s imaging technology isn’t brand new, doesn’t mean they can’t get quality reads out of it. Be sure to verify with your referring physician if you have any concerns about the center’s imaging equipment.
5. If additional testing is necessary, can they offer other advanced imaging services at their location? (Ex: CT scans, ultrasounds, DEXA bone density scans)
“No ma’am, I am not ‘kitten’ you, we can certainly perform an MRI right after this CAT scan if your doctor requests it.”
Mulit-modality centers have many benefits including the ability to scqueeze you in for additional imaging without you having to return to the center at a later date. This is especially common for women’s imaging in scenarios where a breast ultrasound or breast MRI would give more information than a screening mammogram provides.
6. Do they offer options for claustrophobic patients? Ex: Open MRI machines
“Excuse me… Ms. MRI technologists? I think I feel a panic attack coming on.”
Open MRI machines aren’t always the best for every patient but if you’re claustrophobic or overweight, it might be your only option. Don’t let your fear get in the way of the medical care you need!
7. Does the radiology center provide you with access to your imaging reports in a timely and easily accessible manner?
“So what you’re going to do… is just login here. Click the mouse over there…”
There’s nothing worse than waiting for weeks to find out the results of your imaging procedures. Whether you’re worred about a lump you found in your breast or you’re waiting to find out if you’re going to need knee surgery on a potentially torn ACL, 24-hour turnaround time is something patients need to ask about.
8. Are the radiologists available to discuss reports and interpretations with your doctor?
“Mhm, yes. Dr. Meow Mix that’s a great question, let me pull up the scan.”
Even if the imaging center doesn’t have their radiologists on-site, they should be able to be available to your doctor to go over any questions about your image reports. Most teleradiology companies or off-site radiology providers will offer this service, but not all.
9. Can you bring your own music to listen to while you’re in the MRI scanner?
“Ah, the sweet sound of Adele is much better than the sound this MRI machine makes.”
The sound of an MRI machine sounds something like techno, but much worse. Having the luxury of bringing your own music to block out the sound can help a lot and also ease any nervousness or fears for patients. Be sure to ask, so you don’t get stick listening to elevator music!
10. Does the imaging center have radiologists on-site, available for consultations?
“I’m not trying to look unamused, this is just my ‘listening face.’ I assure you.”
Again, this isn’t a game changer for when you’re searching for an imaging center, but it’s definitely a positive thing if there is a radiologist on site to go over any questions. This is fairly uncommon, so if there is a radiologist available for you to meet, it’s a big plus!