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Getting an MRI: Wait times drop for patients

Te whai MRI: Kua heke te roa e noho tārewa ana ngā tūroro
31 October 2019
3 minute read

Research has endorsed a recent pilot that saw wait times, from referral to MRI, drop significantly.


The Journal of Primary Care has published a paper which supports General Practitioners (GPs) referring patients directly for an MRI scan.

The paper follows a pilot that significantly reduced wait times for patients. The pilot also saw increased access for Māori and Pacific peoples.

The paper, titled 'Guidelines, training and quality assurance: influence on general practitioner MRI referral quality', endorses the pilot and work carried out by the GPs involved.

Based in Auckland, this referral pathway was co-designed by ACC, ProCare and Mercy Radiology.

The direct referral pathway significantly reduces wait times from referral to MRI report, down from three weeks to an average of five days.
- Dr Stephen Kara

Lead author of the study Dr Stephen Kara says: “The direct referral pathway significantly reduces wait times from referral to MRI report, down from three weeks to an average of five days, creating a much better patient experience.”

Results of the pilot show an increase in access for Māori and Pacific peoples, specifically Pacific people aged 15 to 34.

“Referring a patient to MRI via their local GP is a significant step in providing equitable access for Māori and Pacific peoples.”

The results show an increase in access of 50% over the baseline.

ACC Strategy and Design manager Allison Bennett says the initiative shows how agencies can work together to improve outcomes for patients.

"In this case, we worked with clinicians to systematically improve a care pathway."

Following the successful pilot, the programme has expanded to all ProCare general practices as well as to GPs in Pegasus, Pinnacle, and Tū Ora Compass Health.

In Auckland the programme is now expanding beyond ProCare registered GPs. Other PHOs are encouraging their GPs to attend upcoming training to gain accreditation. We've also signed a contract with Pegasus to expand the pathways to other Canterbury PHOs.

GPs well-placed to refer patients

The 18-month primary care retrospective study looked at the outcomes of 550 MRIs ordered by 150 GPs. It found 86% were appropriate, and 79% were consistent with the guidelines. A further 7% clinically useful but for conditions outside of the guidelines.

Kara says it has been rewarding to see such good results. Designing the referral pathway took considerable time and effort.

“Training sessions for GPs have been a key part of the initiative, involving hands-on practical examinations with emphasis on the best tests to use in a busy clinical environment, to assess if someone is appropriate for referral to MRI.”

Kara says it's very pleasing to see the study confirm that with the right training, accreditation and robust guidelines, GPs are well placed to refer patients direct to MRI. And is resulting in significantly reduced wait times for patients.

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