Hospital frustrated by no shows for MRI appointments

Health officials on P.E.I. are frustrated by the number of people not showing up for their MRI appointments.

'By the time we figure out that a patient is not coming, it's too late'

Health PEI advocates that missed appointments slows down the process of getting diagnostic images to physicians so they are able to treat patients as fast as possible. (Laura Meader/CBC )

Health officials on P.E.I. are frustrated by the number of people not showing up for their MRI appointments.

On average three people a week fail to show up for their MRI appointments at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Officials say that's contributing to longer wait times for patients and unnecessary down time for technologists.

The MRI department at the QEH has only two of four full-time positions filled, so non-urgent cases can wait about six months for an appointment.

"It's a limited resource and we don't like to see any appointment times wasted," said Gailyne MacPherson, the provincial director of diagnostic imaging. "It's frustrating to see any spots go empty." 

MacPherson ran the numbers for the last year. "The number of patients who haven't shown up would equate to three weeks less of a wait time," she said.

Gailyne MacPherson, the provincial director of diagnostic imaging hopes people will become more aware of the impacts of missed appointments. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Long wait times = no shows

The hospital knows the longer the wait times, the more no shows they have.

A lot can change by the time the appointment date comes, said MacPherson, including contact phone numbers being outdated, or patients going elsewhere.

Some are paying to go to private clinics to avoid the wait.

"By the time we figure out that a patient is not coming, it's too late for us to get someone else in," she said.

The QEH does have a cancellation list with about 150 names, and some can come in short notice — but they usually still need a couple of hours.

MacPherson hopes people will either do a better job at remembering their appointments or calling to cancel them so time slots don't go wasted.

Reminders often unanswered

The hospital does call people the day before their appointment to remind them but reaching someone directly is rare. 

"We're often not able to get a hold of people, sometimes people have changed their cell phone numbers … and we don't have the latest up-to-date information," said MacPherson.

She believes many also aren't checking voice mail regularly either. 

The department isn't equipped with the proper computer system to send out reminder emails, but hopes to be able to do that sometime in the next few years when budgets allow for technology upgrades. 

Complexity of hospital system

MacPherson said the topic of no shows came up at a recent Atlantic radiology managers meeting where they discussed how the large complex nature of hospital departments can make it difficult to track what's happening with appointments.

"I know in Nova Scotia … physicians are sending requisitions to more than one site and each site is not able to communicate with each other …Their no-show problem is even worse than ours," she said.

In P.E.I, patients often think various departments communicate more than they do with one another, said MacPherson. The QEH has had patients admitted to hospital who have missed their MRI.

It happens about once a month, said MacPherson. "They get admitted to hospital, they forget to tell the hospital they have an MRI booked … and somehow or other it goes empty … arrangements could have been made to get them there."

About the Author

Laura Meader

Laura Meader is a video journalist for CBC P.E.I.