GLENS FALLS — MRI scans have increased dramatically at Glens Falls Hospital, to the point where the hospital needed a second MRI machine.
“We recognized that we simply didn’t have the capacity to meet the growing need for MRI services and North Country Orthopedics had an existing MRI system. We recently moved that system to the Pruyn Pavilion and are now accepting appointments for both MRI systems,” said spokeswoman Katelyn Cinzio.
North Country Orthopedics joined Glens Falls Hospital in December.
In January 2018, use of the hospital’s new, $1.5 million MRI was low. About 100 patients were scanned.
But by the time the hospital announced its MRI in August, it was scanning almost 400 patients a month.
“That need has continued to grow, with nearly 600 procedures performed last month,” Cinzio said. “We believe that need is being driven by patient familiarity and comfort with modern systems and physicians embracing the technology to deliver high-quality care.”
More physicians and patients are asking for MRIs as the first step in a diagnosis, she said.
The first MRI was lowered painstakingly into place with a crane. It has an open design, making it easier for people with claustrophobia to tolerate the scan. It’s also an advanced type of MRI, which provides higher-quality images and faster scan times than a traditional MRI. That makes it particularly useful for diagnosing strokes and other emergencies.
It has been used for outpatients who need specialized scans, but mostly for inpatients. It was essential to the hospital getting designated as a Stroke Center in February, which allowed patients to go directly there if they had stroke symptoms, rather than going to Albany or Schenectady.
At the ER, the hospital now does immediate brain imaging and evaluations to determine if someone is having a stroke, so they can be treated immediately. During a stroke, 1.9 million brain cells can die every minute until treatment.
The hospital is extending outpatient hours into the evenings and on weekends so that more people can get the specialized scan.
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The second MRI will be primarily used for outpatient care.
“The addition of the outpatient MRI, along with the expanded appointment times, allows us to deliver an even higher level of service and options for our patients,” said Edward Hanchett, senior director of medical imaging, in a statement. “Our goal, as always, is to help our patients and their doctors receive the diagnostic answers they need as quickly as possible.”
The hospital must compete with several freestanding MRI centers in the area. There are at least four others in Glens Falls alone.
Anthem has required patients to go to an outpatient center for MRIs, and other insurance companies are urging patients to consider those centers because they are cheaper, hospital CEO Dianne Shugrue said at a presentation about the hospital’s finances on Feb. 28.
She said she needed more MRIs done at the hospital.
“They are pulling off the profitable revenue,” she said. “For scanning, we want you to come to the hospital, because that’s how we cover our Medicare losses.”
Freestanding centers are cheaper, she acknowledged.
“Those folks can do it cheaper because they don’t have the overhead we have. We’re open 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she said.
She warned that “disruptors” like those centers could badly damage health care.
“They are not coming into the health care space to take care of the elderly with a bazillion of morbidities,” she said. “We’re fighting to keep the ER open. Nobody else is going to have one. So it is crucial.”