New Outpatient Imaging MRI Suite Caters to Patient Comfort, Relaxation

January 13, 2017

Recognizing that having an MRI can be stressful for patients, Wake Forest Baptist Outpatient Imaging has opened a new space with custom features designed to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.

In the new MRI suite at the facility on Executive Park Boulevard, patients are able to select videos, soothing music and ambient lighting to personalize their experience. The suite, which opened late last year, is the first of its kind in Winston-Salem and is available to all individuals for whom physicians have ordered MRIs, not just Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center patients.

“We’ve created a warm, spa-like environment where patients can control the sights and sounds they experience,” said administrator Jo Ellen Lucas.

While the setting for MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is typically sterile and cold, the new suite at Wake Forest Baptist Outpatient Imaging emphasizes patient comfort and relaxation with a technology called Caring Suite.

Before the exam begins, patients choose audio and visual preferences from among 18 nature themes, such as waterfall and sea coast. A large display monitor mounted on the ceiling above the patient table projects the imagery, which is paired with soft, colored lighting and gentle background music throughout the scanning process.

“Many of our patients are claustrophobic or fearful of having an MRI, but being able to customize these elements provides an escape and reduces stress and anxiety,” Lucas said.

In addition to the ambience options, the suite contains a new MRI device with patient-friendly features, including a wider patient table with a greater weight capacity and a shorter tunnel so scanning can be done feet-first, with the patient’s head remaining outside the machine for many exams.

Patient comfort is critical in MRIs because the subject has to lie still throughout the imaging process, which can take as long as an hour, depending on the nature of the exam. 

The new MRI unit also is quieter and faster than older devices, and it produces sharper, more detailed images, which allows for imaging of smaller body parts such as wrists and hands.

Response to the Caring Suite has been positive, Lucas said, with patients saying that the atmosphere is inviting and that they feel more at ease during the exams.

“They love the fact that they have ownership over some aspects of their procedure,” she said. “It’s a win-win because the patient is calmer and the technologist can focus on performing the highest quality exam in a timely manner.”

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