My Knees in 3D
I’m not one to complain about new technologies. In fact, I’m a certified geek and always enjoy digging into something new and interesting.
But recently, following a claustrophobic journey into an MRI capsule to have my knees imaged, I found myself thinking about healthcare costs and how some technologies drive prices up.
After listening to magnets clang for about 20 minutes, I left the contraption, got dressed, brushed my hair, and attempted to keep any thoughts about surgery at bay.
I walked out to the reception.
“Do you need anything,” I asked the receptionist, knowing that I have new healthcare insurance that forces me to pay out of pocket until a deductible is met.
She looked on the computer. “We’ll bill you,” she said.
“Do you know how much it will be,” I asked.
“No,” she said.
I said “thanks,” and began to walk away.
“Oh, don’t forget this” she said, handing me a DVD.
“What is it,” I asked.
“It’s your MRI,” she said.
“Oh. Do I need to bring it to my doctor?”
No, but it’s nice to have in case he doesn’t receive his electronic copy, she said.
“But it’s for you,” she said.
“Oh. How do I read it?” I asked, noticing that there were no instructions.
“Just put it in your PC.”
“I don’t have a PC. I have a Mac,” I replied.
“Well, you need a PC to read it,” she said.
I guess patients with Macs don’t get the same benefits!
I could co-opt my husband’s PC, but would I know what I was looking at anyway? Not likely.
When I got home, I decided to try it on my Mac using the virtual machine that enables Windows, or a PC-like environment.
I just had to see my knees.
But how many patients would have bothered to even try looking at the images?
After all, aren’t we trying to find ways to reduce healthcare costs? Do we need our own DVDs when the images are already digitized and could easily be placed online securely?
I wondered what the medical facility spends on the software, labor, other materials to produce these DVDs for every patient.
During the install, the DVD was having problems – a never-ending message that read “loading.”
Finally, after a third try, it loaded within about 15 seconds.
The help menu was empty, but after clicking on some of the icons I realized that the images were in 3D!
I could rotate the kneecap, zoom into cartilage, see my knees from the back, the side, the front. I could even see them up side down!
I am quite sure that I found the menisci, the kneecap, the tibia and femur. I showed my husband.
“I don’t know what I’m looking at,” he said, and walked away.
I finally put it away, and wondered if I was alone in thinking about the costs. Why not just enjoy it? After all, it was “free,” though I knew that someone was paying for it indirectly, and it was probably me.
And I have to wonder if my 81-year-old mother would simply toss it in a file – or possibly in the trash.
My doctor called the next day. He had received the images electronically, and said that I have a “torn meniscus” that he could repair with outpatient surgery.
Obviously, the MRI images were helpful to him! I heard that he does at least three of these outpatient surgeries per day.
I have to ask: Does this small luxury make the healthcare system more efficient?
Did this DVD help me at all to understand my issue? Not really. I saw similar images on Google accompanied by descriptions of various knee ailments.
And I still don’t know, looking at my images, exactly where that meniscus tear is.
Dianne Finch is an independent producer/journalist. She lives in Rockport.Twitter: @dmfinch