When it comes to your health, every decision matters. Picking the right imaging center is no exception. Where you go for testing can make all the difference – impacting many aspects of your health care experience.
In this article, we will share some common imaging tests and eight things to consider when deciding where to go for testing.
Common types of imaging tests
Medical imaging plays an important role in diagnosis and treatment, from diagnosing illness to broken bones. Some of the most common types of imaging tests you might experience are:
- X-ray: X-rays are commonly used for bone fractures and finding certain infections.
- Ultrasound: Using sound waves, ultrasounds create real-time images. They are commonly used to look at organs and unborn babies during pregnancy.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): Using powerful magnets and radio waves, MRIs make detailed pictures of soft tissues, joints, the brain and the heart.
- CT (computed tomography) scan: This advanced imaging technique makes detailed cross-sectional images and diagnoses conditions like tumors, injuries and vascular disease.
- Mammogram: A mammogram is a specially designed X-ray imaging test used to look at the breast for the early detection of cancer and other breast diseases.
Learn more about different imaging options that may be available to you.
How to choose the right imaging center for your needs
Many years ago, the hospital may have been your only option when it came to medical imaging. Today, there are several imaging facilities to choose from, making it hard to know if you’re making a wise decision.
Here are some key things you should look for when choosing an imaging center for your care.
1. Accreditation matters
You want to ensure the facility meets the highest quality and patient safety standards. The imaging center should be accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR) or the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC).
An ACR-accredited or IAC-accredited facility meets stringent practice guidelines and technical standards. The center is committed to the highest degree of safety and understands not only the amounts of radiation given off but also how to lower the amount of radiation patients receive during testing.
If accredited, imaging centers usually display their gold seals on their websites and facilities.
2. Quality of equipment
When it comes to imaging, quality matters. Better equipment means clearer, more detailed images and easier and faster diagnosis and treatment.
Technology is advancing quickly in medical imaging. Your health care provider may have some guidance on what type of imaging study (or test) is best for you.
3. Expertise of the staff
Fancy equipment doesn’t mean as much when the people operating it aren’t held to the highest standard possible.
You want to look for certified technologists and board-certified health care providers and radiologists. Board certification is the best measure of a provider’s knowledge, expertise and skills to provide quality care within a given specialty.
Some radiologists are subspecialized, which means they have extra training and expertise in a particular disease, such as cancer; a specific body part, like the breast or heart; or an organ system, such as the neurological or musculoskeletal system.
Ask if your imaging study will be reviewed by a radiologist with fellowship training in the same body system as the study.
[Understand more about health care providers who might care for you.]
4. Location and convenience
Consider the location of the imaging center and its convenience for you. Look for a center that is easy for you to get to and has convenient appointment times. Also, make sure the center offers all the services you need. This can make the process less stressful, especially if you need to come in for multiple imaging sessions.
5. Insurance coverage
Many imaging centers work with various insurance providers, making it easier for you to get the specialized tests you need without breaking the bank.
Check to see whether the imaging center is in your insurance network. Understanding your coverage can help you avoid unexpected out-of-pocket costs. Ask if your imaging test requires pre-authorization from your insurance plan first.
If you cannot pay for your part of the imaging test, ask the center whether it offers payment plans.
6. Patient reviews and recommendations
Take the time to read patient reviews and seek recommendations from friends, family or your health care provider. Personal experiences can offer valuable insight into the quality of care, staff friendliness and overall experience of the imaging center.
7. Turnaround time of results
When you get an imaging test, waiting for the results can cause anxiety for many people. Some imaging centers may provide faster results than others. Some results may be available the same day or the next day, but sometimes results may take a few days.
If timely information is important for your treatment plan, look for a facility with a quick turnaround time.
8. Special accommodations
Are you facing the prospect of an MRI but dealing with claustrophobia? Are you communicating through sign language or have a family member who does? Do you need an MRI-safe wheelchair?
When choosing an imaging center, it's not just about the tests but also your specific needs. Look for a center that understands and caters to diverse patients, offering accommodations like open MRIs for claustrophobia, language interpretation services and adaptable equipment.
Ensuring your unique needs are considered guarantees a more comfortable and respectful experience.
Selecting the right imaging center is an important step in managing your health. By considering factors like accreditation, expertise, location and insurance coverage, you can make an informed decision that ensures the best possible diagnostic experience. Your health is worth careful and thoughtful research.