Feature Article

Increasing MR patient referrals

When a doctor orders a magnetic resonance (MR) imaging test but doesn't have an MRI at their facility or perhaps there's not a specialist technologists or radiologist in the area of interest, they may have specific facilities in mind that they recommend. Patients also may look at facilities in the area and then make their decision, but many may not. Because of this, and a physician's possibly limited knowledge of the options in the area, radiology clinics may feel the need to increase their referrals, which may be done through marketing, training radiologists, improved patient care and specialty radiology.

The impact of training

Trained radiology staff may help drive up your facility's referrals from other physicians and patients alike.1 It is important to remember this within a radiology department trying to increase the number of patients it sees. New systems may require additional training, even for radiologists that have been in the business for years. One clinic decided to switch manufacturers and was concerned about learning the new systems.1 However, the manufacturer worked with them to train their radiologists about the new machine before it had even been installed. The radiologists were relatively confident with their ability to properly image their patients within a few days of the new system being installed. In turn, patients and physicians alike seemed to notice this confidence and began recommending patients. People may see the confidence and feel more comfortable, because everyone in the clinic knew exactly what needed to be done.

Patient comfort

Another way of increasing your patient referrals is to to ensure patients enjoy their visit as much as possible by incorporating an atmosphere with a more human touch. Some radiology suites have white walls and very little in the room other than the equipment needed to image the patient. This may be partly out of necessity, especially in terms of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners and their strong magnetic fields. However, this appearance may feel detached and clinical to patients. Some facilities are already stepping into the world of accommodating patients, especially children, with upgraded radiology suites that have more decorations and a less noticeable scanner.2 Clinics can create an environment within their suites that involves murals or images on the wall and incorporates scanners as buildings or other structures that set children at ease. These rooms make the children more comfortable, which in turn may increase awareness for a facility through patients' parents telling others about how the imaging went for their child.

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Selecting specialty facilities

Some clinics may notice that choosing a specialty to work on improves patient flow.3 Although the clinics would ideally still image all kinds of patients, they may find that having a radiologist or two that specializes in a certain medical area is of use. This specialist can use the training they have received for that area and apply it to the images that they view, which could potentially cause more confidence in reading images.4 Having specialized radiology may also lead to referrals from specialty physicians who know they can trust that radiology department to be well informed. This may require a strong network between radiologists and physicians.

Communication between clinics

Radiologists may not frequently interact with a patient and their physician, even if they are in the same facility. In some cases, the radiologist will read the images and submit their report. However, if a radiology clinic were to build a strong relationship with the physician, they could potentially give their opinion on the necessity of a medical test or which medical test should be done.2 Physicians who are not sure if a test is right for their patient may reach out to the clinic for their opinion. This would also open the door for communication when a patient's results are ready.5 In one case, the physician waited to hear from the radiologist about their patient's results and assumed that the radiology department would alert them if there was something of concern. The radiology department assumed the physician would watch for the images and didn't notify the physician when the results were ready. Because of these assumptions, the patient, who had a fracture as well as ligament damage, didn't have their results in a decent amount of time for treatment. This sort of thing raises the question of why the two departments weren't communicating to help the patient.

Imaging clinics and/or radiology departments may notice an increase in referrals from patients and their physicians if they ensure they have trained radiologists, a comfortable atmosphere and specialized fields. The increased confidence of the radiologist department may appeal to the patient and make them more comfortable, which may make them more likely to refer others to the clinic after their visit. If the patient also mentions to their physician the comfort they experienced, the doctor may then refer others as well. However, it is still important to build a strong line of communication between the radiologist department or imaging clinic and the physician's office.


1. Tom Cappas. "GE MR applications training ramps up productivity...even on day one." SIGNA Pulse of MR. Spring 2018. Web. 16 January 2019. <http://www.gesignapulse.com/signapulse/spring_2018/MobilePagedReplica.action?pm=2&folio=22#pg22>.

2. "Adventure Rooms." chp.edu. Web. 16 January 2019. <http://www.chp.edu/our-services/radiology/our-approach/adventure-rooms>.

3. Andrew Colbert. "Opportunities for Growth in a Competitive Radiology Climate: To stay relevant and competitive, radiology groups need to increase brand awareness and drive new initiatives." itnonline.com. 5 July 2017. Web. 16 January 2019. <https://www.itnonline.com/article/opportunities-growth-competitive-radiology-climate>.

4. European Society of Radiology 2009. "The future role of radiology in healthcare." Insights imaging. January 2010; 1(1): 2-11. Web. 16 January 2019. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3259353/>.

5. Sanket Shah. "How Improving the Radiology Referral Process Can Improve Patient Care, Patient Experience, and Reduce Health Care Costs in the Long Run." Fibroblast. 11 November 2014. Web. 16 January 2019. <https://fibroblast.com/patients/how-improving-the-radiology-referral-process-can-improve-patient-care-patient-experience-and-reduce-health-care-costs-in-the-long-run/>.