Feature | May 17, 2006 | Cristen Bolan
Cristen C. Bolan, Editor

Knowledge is power. And patients are acquiring that power. An informed patient today might ask a physician before undergoing an exam, “Does your MRI have 3-D imaging support?” Or simply, “Is the equipment safe?”
An important factor driving innovation in imaging technology and setting standards for patient safety is an informed consumer. For years, people have consulted second and third opinions from doctors prior to undergoing a medical procedure. Now, that same inquisitive nature has caught on in imaging technology where savvy consumers seeking patient comfort may make a request for an open MRI.
How are today’s consumer’s so knowledgeable about medical imaging devices? One reason is that MRI safety became a hot front page topic in the New York Times and on Good Morning America in 2005. This year, headlines like $14 million MRI installed at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) was breaking news in The Business Journal of Portland, and The Oregonian boasted that OHSU would have “some of the most powerful MRI machines in the world.”1 The article went on to mention that the MRI’s 3.0T magnet is “30,000 times stronger than Earth’s magnetic field,”2 adding that the MRI would get an upgrade to 7.0T. This might have sparked some curiosity amongst patients awaiting an MRI exam.
Once newspapers, television or radio report the latest news on medical modalities, consumers can consult the Internet to fill in the blanks. With the availability of information off of the Internet, the average consumer can probe and compare physicians, medical procedures, facilities and even medical devices. In speaking with Paul White, president of CompView Medical, he likened this growing consumer curiosity to that of the personal computers paradigm, where everyone wants one with an Intel inside. Soon, a patient may ask if a facility has a GE or Siemens.  
With the onset of this paradigm shift, how are medical centers responding to informed patients? As cutting-edge technology may inspire consumer-confidence in a medical facility, many  medical centers are striving to upgrade their imaging equipment. Manufacturers may follow suit and appeal directly to the mainstream. GE already advertises its medical devices on national TV.
More important to society as whole, a well-informed consumer may drive higher standards in healthcare. If you follow the logic that a well-equipped, top-of-the-line facility attracts top-tier physicians, you could argue that high-tech equipment is a sign of good healthcare. Or is that assuming too much

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