Extremity MRI – Changing the Face of Rheumatology
Until recently, MRI was not considered a practical option for rheumatology. Rheumatologists sent their patients to centers with large-magnet MRIs. But often these sites were over booked treating patients with other diseases, and the wait for rheumatology patients was weeks or longer.
Even when time on the large magnet systems could be found, positioning a patient with severe musculoskeletal and joint issues on a large magnet system often meant unbearable discomfort, especially when trying to image the hands and feet. Many patients could not tolerate the procedure itself.
With the introduction of a C-Scan extremity MRI system, Dr. Gaylis was able to offer his patients a number of options that were unavailable previously. “Extremity MRI capability allows me to better visualize the small area I need to see and give me as much detail, if not more, than I could get with a large system,” Dr. Gaylis notes. “Extremity MRI allows me to see joint erosion better and treat it earlier.”
Having an extremity MRI system allows Dr. Gaylis to follow a patient’s response to treatment therapies more closely. “Once treatment has been initiated, it is easy to perform follow-up MRIs at regular intervals right in the office. Knowing the response to treatment allows me to decide if it’s necessary to continue, stop, or adjust treatments based on what is seen on the MRI images. This can have a huge impact on a patient’s outcome.”
Dr. Gaylis states that his C-Scan system is not only practical for diagnosing patients with rheumatoid arthritis, but also is becoming a valuable tool in working with patients with other joint issues, such as osteoarthritis where it is used to accurately image the knee, foot and ankle. He prefers to have a Board Certified Radiologist, fellowship trained in musculoskeletal radiology read his MRI images, to ensure the best treatment decisions for his patients. Sending images to an off site radiologist for interpretation is not difficult, he states, “My new C-Scan system and Hologic made connectivity easy.”
Measuring the Value of the New Procedure
For the most part, insurance companies are cooperative when it comes to reimbursing for the relatively new procedure. However, as with any new process, there are some who will not approve a technology that is not considered a standard form of care. “In these circumstances, it is sometimes necessary for me to educate the insurance company on the value of the procedure,” Dr. Gaylis notes. “I point out that by using an extremity MRI system for imaging RA, I can diagnose a patient’s condition earlier. This often leads to early arrest and remission, saving the patient from what could have become years of painful treatments for a condition beyond repair. At a minimum, extremity MRI keeps us from continuing expensive therapies that are not working or benefiting the patient.”
Most insurance companies, when forced to look at the alternative of longterm care, can be brought to understand the value the new procedure holds.
Working Together in a True Partnership
“Moving forward with any new technology requires complete confidence and faith in the vendor;” Dr. Gaylis points out, “especially a technology that has the potential to significantly impact a patient’s treatment. The vendor needs to demonstrate not only that the equipment will perform as promised, but also that their training will be thorough, and the follow-up support quick and responsive.”
In all of these aspects, Dr. Gaylis feels that Hologic has done an outstanding job. “They understood from the beginning that this must be more than just a client/vendor relationship, it has to be a partnership. Hologic has demonstrated through their training and support, that they understand the meaning of a partnership. They understand the relationship between technology and service. They know that the better they perform for us, the better it will be for our practice and for our patients.”
Dr. Gaylis’ Arthritis and Rheumatic Disease Specialities has become a show site for Hologic. “I feel that my partnership with Hologic is helping to grow the field of rheumatology MRI, and in the process, helping more and more people recover from these diseases.”