Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can be a very helpful tool at diagnosing many problems ranging from orthopedic to neurological to breast. However, as a patient, you want to be sure that the MRI is necessary and helpful to your situation. The opposite may also be true; your doctor may not order an MRI and you feel they should. As patients become more responsible for their health care, asking your doctor these three questions can help make you feel comfortable with the recommendations made for your care.
- Why do you think this is the best test for me?
Regardless of your injury, pain or symptom, ask your doctor why they are recommending an MRI for your diagnosis. A good response will be one that is particularly relevant to your injury or pain with specific examples of what they are looking for in the outcome. A response that should have you asking more questions will be vague and nonspecific. Regardless of their response, you should be aware that MRI is very safe and does not involve radiation, surgery, hospitalization and has no known side effects. Generally speaking, an MRI is an extremely valuable tool for physicians that help easily identify areas of treatment, track progress and rule out serious problems. An MRI gives an extremely detailed picture of what is going on inside your body and provides a clearer, sharper image when compared to an x-ray or CT. MRI can be particularly helpful with injuries in dense tissue (like breast tissue), small bones and joints (like your hand) and muscles. Of course, these are not all the uses for an MRI; in fact, the most common MRI scan done at Shields MRI facilities is for the lower back. For more information about MRI and its benefits and uses, listen to Dr. Stephen Sweriduk, Shields MRI Chief Medical Officer: http://www.shields.com/en/MRI/What%20is%20an%20MRI.aspx
- What happens if I do nothing?
This is a great question to ask whenever your doctor recommends any test, and particularly if you are paying for it! While you never want to forgo any procedure that can benefit your health, it is beneficial to have information on what would happen if you did. If your doctor recommends an MRI, ask them “What happens if I don’t get the MRI?” Be prepared that their answer may not be definitive since the nature of an MRI is for diagnosis. Here is a scenario for consideration: Let’s say, you are experiencing pain in your hip and your doctor recommends an MRI. If you question what will happen if you don’t get the MRI, your doctor may answer that your pain would continue but he would recommend physical therapy (PT) in the meantime. At that point, you would have to consider how much PT would help and understand that you still may end up getting the recommended MRI anyway. You’d also want to consider how much PT sessions would cost and how many. Understand that asking one question will likely lead to many others, but it will always help you to be more informed about your healthcare choices.
- How much will it cost?
Today, getting quality healthcare is not just about the service, its about getting the BEST service at the BEST price. Ask your doctor ‘how much will this MRI cost?’ to understand the real value of the service recommended. There is a good chance that your doctor may not know since there are many influential factors that determine price, such as exam type, facility and insurance. If this is the case, ask your doctor for the CPT code, which is the code that the insurance companies and imaging facilities use to identify the type of MRI. Look online or call around to MRI providers in your area and give this code to their finance or billing departments. Some may provide online tools and resources. Shields MRI provides an online cost estimator that can give an estimated price immediately:https://secure.shields.com/costcalculator/. Generally speaking, free-standing and outpatient facilities offer lower prices than hospitals, but be careful since many are associated with hospitals and therefore offer their pricing structure. When it comes to an MRI, there are affordable options and the patient should be prepared with CPT code and insurance provider information to find the best one. Also be sure that price isn’t the only driver; look for high-quality technology (1.5T or higher strength MRI), comfort (70 cm bore width) and experience. Shields MRI is the largest MRI provider in New England with more than 20 high-quality MRI centers that offer a low price. Here are the Shields MRI locations in Massachusetts: http://shields.com/Simply%20Save/Locations.aspx