Increasing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) completion rates using aromatherapy

Maribeth O'Connell, Advocate Aurora Health
Meagan Cleary, Advocate Aurora Health

Advocate Christ Medical Center


Background: Patients commonly verbalize anxiety about having magnetic radiation imaging (MRI) scans. Over one quarter (25-37%) of patients having MRI scans have moderate to high anxiety levels (Delic et al., 2021; McIsaac et al., 1998). Anxiety and claustrophobia lead to approximately ten percent of aborted MRI scans annually (Sadigh et al., 2017), about 2 million exams per year, resulting in annual revenue loss of about 1 billion dollars (Davis, 2016).

Local Problem: At Advocate Christ Medical Center (ACMC), approximately 8500 MRI exams are performed in the Outpatient Pavilion (OPP) annually. Using the national average of cancelled cases, we estimated 800 scans/year potentially aborted due to anxiety. At a conference, the radiology manager discovered an evidence-based method for statistically significantly increasing MRI completion rates using MRI-safe aromatherapy patches (Davis, 2016).

Method: Our quality improvement goal was to increase MRI Completion Rates (CR) by providing aromatherapy to patients self-reporting anxiety of 6 or higher on a scale of 0 (no anxiety) to 10 (the most anxiety they have ever experienced). We created a flowchart to ensure consistent wording explaining and offering the aromatherapy for appropriate patients. We collected data using audit sheets for three months after starting aromatherapy.

Results: Baseline MRI CR in September 2021 was 97.0%. MRI CR increased when we started offering aromatherapy (October 98.1%, November 99.6%, December 99.3%). We estimated cost per aborted scan at about $530. Estimated aborted scan costs decreased from $7420 in September to $5300 in October, $1060 in November, and $2120 in December. We reduced costs by over 50%.

Implications for Practice: Using inexpensive aromatherapy patches for anxious patients increases MRI completion rates. Increasing MR CR reduces overall costs and workload for MRI-related healthcare workers. Increasing MRI completion rates also theoretically helps prevent delays in patient care and increases patient satisfaction.