MUSC Health expands advanced MRI exam access statewide

November 16, 2022
Woman in hospital scrubs looks at a computer screen.
MRI technicians stationed at MUSC Charleston will be able to remotely operate machines from across the state to help eliminate the need for. patient traveling. Photo provided by Siemens

Every day, South Carolina roads are filled with patients traversing the state to visit MUSC. Whether it’s for an appointment with a specialist or any number of medical procedures not available at their nearest health providers, patients often report that travel can present many inconveniences. From spending hours on the road and the expense of the trip to finding someone to drive them, for most families, traveling can be one of the largest pain points involved in keeping an appointment.

Those pain points inspired MUSC to look to their strategic partnership with Siemens Healthineers for an innovative solution. The answer: the syngo Virtual Cockpit.

Designed as a software solution to assist scan procedures for patients, the syngo Virtual Cockpit is an MRI machine that can be operated remotely from a station in another location. This means patients will be able to visit their nearest health providers and have scans performed in real time, with technologists stationed at MUSC.

MUSC Health is the first in the state to introduce this technology, with the primary base of operations positioned at its Charleston location. The first cockpit was recently launched at the MUSC Health-Midlands Division. By the end of 2023, MUSC Health will have multiple locations across the state, eliminating hours of travel time and expenses for patients.

“We see patients coming from all parts of the state for cardiac MRI scans every week,” said Jenny Kaminski, an MRI technologist at MUSC. “This will allow patients to get their examinations done at a location that might be closer to their homes,” explained Kaminski, who is currently serving as the lead technologist in the implementation at the Charleston hub. “There is definitely a need for us to expand the availability of advanced MRI examinations across the state, and the Virtual Cockpit will allow us to do that.”  

She added that this technology will also benefit more than just patients. Not only will they not have to travel as frequently, but the same is true for the technologists. Before this implementation, techs like Kaminski would spend certain days of the week traveling to other MUSC divisions. By changing this workflow, time can be spent focusing on the needs of their teams, training new techs and teaching existing techs how to perform advanced MRI examinations.

“The Virtual Cockpit allows us to remote into the scanner and communicate with the technologists at the other locations, with a live feed,” Kaminsky said. “The technologists at the other locations can watch as we scan and explain what we are doing, and we can watch as they scan as well and give live feedback.”

Lori Carithers, director of Imaging Services at MUSC, looks forward to getting her hands on this new technology.

“This is just an incredible and exciting opportunity for the technologists to be a part of such an innovative experience,” said Carithers. “As our name and job states, we are technologists and are very passionate about technology. While we are in health care to care for patients, we also have a love of all things technical, especially in MRI.”

Looking ahead, MUSC Health CEO and MUSC executive vice president for Health Affairs, University, Patrick J. Cawley M.D., sees this as another stepping stone in the right direction of their partnership with Siemens Healthineers.

“Our goal in our partnership with the Siemens Healthineers team has always been to address fractured and inefficient health care delivery systems,” said Cawley. “By leveraging this incredible technology across the enterprise, we are ensuring the highest-quality care for our patients while staying on the forefront of imaging advances as the leading academic health sciences center in the state.”

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