Purpose: Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, our MRI physics group often provided in-person clinical MRI exam physics support, including monitoring exams of patients with certain MR Conditional and unlabeled implants; managing artifacts; suggesting protocol modifications; and providing basic MRI system troubleshooting. This work will describe the transition to an almost entirely virtual MRI physics model during the pandemic, including example cases.
Methods: To minimize risk to patients and staff, our MRI physics team adopted a virtual support model immediately after the pandemic started. Remote support tools included remote PACS viewers, secure access to the MRI host computer, and a prototype remote MRI console viewer installed on a single hospital MRI scanner.
Results: Prior to the pandemic, 3.5 cases per week required in-person MRI physics support. The majority of exams requiring physics support were shifted to the MRI system with the remote MRI console viewer. Following the initial decrease in all MRI exams at the onset of the pandemic onset, MRI volumes at our institution recovered to pre-pandemic levels; our virtual model has been able to support nearly all cases requiring MRI physicist presence: 5 exams in the first 4 weeks of the pandemic shutdown, up to 5.6 cases per week by late summer, normalizing to 3.8 cases per week since that time. MRI physicists can work remotely, with onsite after-hours visits for QC, pulse sequence and protocol development, and basic troubleshooting.
Conclusion: We have shifted the majority of in-person clinical MRI physics activities to a virtual model. This helped our institution navigate initial and subsequent phases of the pandemic by enabling remote work and minimizing facility occupancy, while maintaining a high level of MRI physics services. We anticipate continuing to use these tools for efficient MRI physics support across our network spanning several imaging facilities in the community.
Funding Support, Disclosures, and Conflict of Interest: Our department received research support from GE Healthcare.