Dr Qaiser Malik is a consultant radiologist who has been clinical director of radiology at the Mid and South Essex NHS Trust for two years, and clinical lead at Basildon University Hospital for 10 years. Now he is bringing his extensive understanding of imaging to his role as Clinical Director of Radiology at Living Room Health, making it easier than ever before to get an MRI scan; so easy you can get it done on the high street.
At Living Room Health, we’re empowering patients to take ownership of their own healthcare. As Clinical Director of Radiology, I’m responsible for the services that enable our patients to access MRI imaging in a safe, effective and efficient way.
We’re giving patients control over whether and when they have an MRI scan, by making the whole process as quick and simple as getting your eyes tested at the opticians. Imagine being able to decide that you want an MRI scan today, walk in to a high street premises and get your MRI scan carried out straight away – it will all be done within a single day, just like an eye test.
At the moment – without Living Room Health – it’s very difficult for patients to access imaging; there are so many barriers and so much red tape to negotiate, making the process extremely inefficient and ineffective. We’re removing some of the ‘red tape’ so we can give that control back to patients. That’s the concept of Living Room Health.
Obtaining an MRI scan through existing channels is an extremely slow, laborious process. First, you would need to obtain an appointment with your GP – who in most cases is not allowed to request an MRI scan. The GP will treat the patient according to their clinical assessment, and that could involve trying to manage the issue conservatively. So if the patient has knee pain, the doctor might prescribe some physio, and the patient would try that for two to three months. If physio doesn’t work, the GP would refer the patient to secondary care.
The secondary care provider may, again, try a conservative approach first, before considering an MRI scan. If an orthopaedic opinion is requested this could take another six to eight weeks (maybe even three months, given the pandemic). The patient will then see an orthopaedic surgeon for assessment. If an MRI scan is requested it could take place six weeks later, and the report would be ready four weeks after that. So, in total, it could take more than a year from the initial presentation before a patient has been able to get an MRI scan and its results.
It would be marvellous if everyone with knee pain could receive an MRI scan at the outset, so that an accurate diagnosis could be made right at the beginning and there wouldn’t have to be so much time wasted on potentially ineffective treatments and waiting. But it’s vital for the NHS to have these gatekeeping mechanisms in place, because offering universal MRI scans for relatively minor complaints would place an excessive burden on the imaging service, making it impossible to carry out all the higher priority scans.
Private healthcare still presents some barriers, as the primary way patients access MRI scans privately is by a referral – you still need to see a doctor. Obviously, the timeline will be shorter; you’ll be able to see a doctor within a few days, and once you’ve seen the doctor, they will then refer you for an MRI scan which will be a week or so later. Living Room Health gives the patient the opportunity to access MRI scanning more efficiently. The reason we can do that is because MRI scans, apart from a few contraindications, are a relatively safe imaging test – unlike CT or X-ray, where you are irradiating the patient. The scanning technology we use at Living Room Health has an open ergonomic design that ensures maximum comfort. It does not involve putting the whole body into a confined space and there is very little noise.
At Living Room Health we have designed a whole body screening programme, because we know that if you diagnose conditions early then you get a much better outcome for the patient. A good example of this is diagnosing cancer early. Screening the whole body gives us the opportunity to discover any significant incidental findings much earlier than they might otherwise be found, so that the treatment of any potential issue has a higher chance of success.
We’re proud to be able to give people the power to make these decisions for themselves, in a patient-centred environment that places clinical governance at the core of everything we do. It’s so important to us that patients feel empowered to seek immediate access to the help they need, and can take healthcare into their own hands.