MRI techs team-trained in calming techniques cut patient walkouts and no-shows

A study drawing on data from nearly 100,000 patient visits has shown that team training of MRI technologists in patient-calming techniques can boost rates of patient show-ups as well as study completions.

The study, lead-authored by interventional neuroradiologist Alexander Norbash, MD, of UC-San Diego, is running in the October edition of the Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

The research team evaluated a total of 97,712 patient visits across three tertiary academic medical centers over 1-year intervals. They looked at 49,733 visits at baseline and 47,979 after training.

Each center’s MRI team received training in communications, teamwork and comforting techniques based largely on the “Comfort Talk” program developed by interventional rad Elvira Lang, MD.

Workshops and instruction included online tools, proctoring and case simulation with “scenarios requiring appropriate behavioral and communicative interventions,” according to the study abstract.

And the results:

Despite widely varying no-show rates (5 percent to 22.2 percent) and study incompletion rates (0.7 percent to 3.7 percent) at the three centers, the combined patients’ data showed significant improvement in

  • no-show rates (combined decreases from 11.2 percent to 8.7 percent) and
  • incompletion rates (combined decreases from 2.3 percent to 1.4 percent).

In introducing their findings, Norbash and co-authors point out that MRI is a high-cost imaging modality, emphasizing that an “optimized encounter” improves care quality, patient satisfaction and workflow.

Meanwhile it’s no secret that, despite patient-centric advances in scanner design and suite enhancement, situational claustrophobia continues to confound many MR imaging centers.

“Our preliminary results suggest training of the imaging team can improve the no-show and incompletion rates of the MRI service, positively affecting throughput and utilization,” the authors conclude. “Team training can be readily implemented and may help address the needs of the current cost-conscious and consumer-sensitive healthcare environment.”

The journal notes that the study was previously presented at RSNA 2015.