Delivering more imaging exams for people in British Columbia

June 9, 2022 at 2:03 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

People throughout B.C. are getting the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) exams they need faster and closer to home, with the most MRI and CT exams ever completed in a year last year.

“In March 2018, we made a commitment to increase MRI capacity in the province. Since then, we’ve invested in improved services for patients, adding new capacity and increasing exams,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “We are delivering on our promise to build capacity in our public health-care system so that British Columbians do not have to wait months and months for their exams.”

In 2021-22, 296,211 MRI exams were performed, which is an increase of 49,105, or 20% compared to the previous year. The number of CT exams performed was 901,256, or 11% more than the previous year.

Since 2016-17, wait times for MRI exams have been cut by more than half. The number of MRI exams performed has increased by 120,504 exams, or 69% since then. Since August 2017, scanning time has increased to more than 4,600 hours per week, which is 1,800 more hours per week and an increase of 68%. This has been achieved by expanding MRI appointments into the evenings, weekends and holidays, and operating the equivalent of 17 new MRI units across the province.

In 2021-22, two net-new MRI scanners began operating. One of these was at St. Paul’s Hospital, which was that facility’s third, and one at the new Granville MRI Clinic, which opened last year. One net-new CT scanner opened in January 2022 at Burnaby Hospital, which was that facility’s second.

To support training and recruitment efforts, the ministries of Health and Advanced Education and Skills and Training, along with the BC Institute of Technology, also established an MRI technologist bursary program. The program, launched in April 2022, provides support to the MRI technologist students so they can graduate earlier and enter the workforce sooner.

The Ministry of Health also issued its first medical imaging provincial waiting-list management policy that outlines the best practices to optimally manage MRI and CT waiting lists. This policy ensures the care provided is patient-centred by increasing access, choice and transparency and improving communications on waiting list status for patients and referring practitioners.

“We have always kept in mind that our patients and the health care they depend on are at the heart of our efforts,” said Dix. “We celebrate with them as we see imaging capacity increasing and wait times decreasing in the past five years. We also know there is still more work to do. “We are committed to continue the hard work to make further improvements on patient access to MRI and CT exams.”

In the upcoming year, efforts will focus on:

  • building further capacity by performing more exams, maximizing operating hours and adding new scanners;
  • increasing essential personnel by enhancing education and training opportunities, such as introducing the MRI technologist bursary program;
  • optimizing business process by increasing efficiencies to improve service delivery for a better, more efficient patient and referring-practitioner experience; and
  • improving waiting-list management and waiting-list status communications by continuing to implement best practices in the management of waiting lists.  

MRI and CT scanners are non-invasive tools used to form images of the human body to assess certain medical conditions. MRI scanners use powerful magnetic fields and radio waves to assess neurological, musculoskeletal, cardiac and abdominal disorders, and to stage cancers.

A CT scanner combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles around the body and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images. CT scanning is commonly used for assessing trauma and cerebrovascular conditions, to investigate chest and abdominal  anomalies, to stage and monitor cancers, and for pre-operative and post-operative assessment.

Learn More:

To view the 2021-22 Medical Imaging Annual Progress Report, visit:  https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/MI_Annual_Progress_Report_June_2022.pdf

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