Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is meant for use under a medical practitioner’s supervision, this means that in order for a patient to be screened using an MRI, they need to have a medical order.
A medical order is a written or electronic order by a medical practitioner or their authorized agent for the administration of a drug or device.
The best way to get an MRI is to talk to your physician about a referral. At freestanding imaging centers and whole-body MRI providers (like ezra), clinicians might be able to write a medical order for you.
Read on to learn more about what an MRI is, why a physician might order one, and everything you need to know about whether it’s possible to get an MRI without a referral.
What Is an MRI? A Brief Summary
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging technique that uses magnetic fields and computer-generated radio waves to form images of your organs and tissues that aid in the diagnostic process. It is a noninvasive process to examine organs, tissues, and the skeletal system for any abnormalities.
Usually, MRI machines, or “MRI scanners,” are large and tubelike. As the patient lies on their back inside the MRI machine, the magnetic wave realigns water molecules inside the body, preparing them to produce faint signals in response to radio waves. From those faint signals, the MRI generates cross-sectional images of your body, or in some cases, 3D images that can be rotated around and viewed from different angles on a screen.
Most MRIs are performed on the brain and spinal cords, although your doctor may recommend a diagnostic imaging test for other areas of the body such as the heart, spleen, or pancreas.
MRI tests are relatively low-risk, the main precautions being the presence of metal in a patient’s body (as that may cause further complications), claustrophobia, and pregnancy-related concerns.
Why Your Doctor Might Refer You For an MRI
MRI tests are often used for disease detection, diagnosis, and post-treatment monitoring, making them a helpful tool for medical professionals when treating patients.
Doctors might recommend an MRI scan if there’s a problem seen on an X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan that they may want to visualize further.
Did You Know?
A 2019 review pointed to MRI as the most important modality in the imaging of soft tissue tumors. The review posited that MRI allows a more detailed classification of the tumor entity and, in many cases, a differentiation between benign and malignant masses.
Here are just a few different reasons and areas a doctor might recommend an MRI for
- Doctors and surgeons who examine and treat the brain and spine often use MRI to confirm a diagnosis or find evidence of a problem that was difficult to detect during initial examination.
- Eye doctors may recommend an MRI scan of the eyeballs in evaluating visual symptom emergencies, such as abrupt visual loss or hemorrhaging in the eye.
- If a doctor is unsure of what is causing chronic pain in a patient’s bones or joints or if there has been a recent painful accident, bone and joint MRI scans help detect issues such as arthritis, bone infections, torn cartilage, and fractures.
- An MRI of the heart, or a cardiac MRI, may be necessary to help clinicians assess signs or symptoms of heart abnormalities, including cardiomyopathy, aneurysm, and cardiac tumor, among others.
- MRI of the breasts is often used with mammography as a screening tool for breast cancer for some patients. MR imaging of the breast may also be done after a biopsy that’s positive for cancer.
Can I Get an MRI Without a Referral?
The best way to get an MRI scan without a doctor’s referral is to contact private screening clinics (also known as free-standing radiology clinics) and schedule a private MRI screening.
Did You Know?
Private MRI clinics have on-site radiologists and other medical professionals who walk you through the entire process, explain each step, and prepare you for the scan. Some doctors partner with free-standing clinics to provide cost-effective scanning solutions.
- Depending on the scanned area, you may require a contrast solution injection, which helps visualize specific body parts better.
- Then, you’ll lie down inside the machine, put on ear protection, and the radiology technician will begin the procedure.
- When high-quality images have been taken, a radiologist reviews the images and generates a report that is then explained to you in detail.
Depending on the number and type of organs being scanned, an MRI may take between 15 and 60 minutes.
However, booking an MRI appointment without a doctor’s referral means you’ll have to self-pay. That is, you’ll be paying out of pocket. Let’s look at the cost you might be looking at for an MRI screening when you don’t have a referral form.
The price range of an MRI scan begins at a few hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars.
In the US, the average costs of an MRI for common scans are listed as such:
- Brain MRI: $1,600-$8,400
- Chest MRI: $500-$7,900
- Breast MRI $500-$10,300
- Cardiac MRI: $430-$6,500
Factors that impact the cost of an MRI include whether or not a contrast dye is needed, which body parts are being examined, and whether your private health insurance plan or Medicare will cover the procedure.
Hospitals and emergency care units bear enormous overhead costs for providing medical care, while clinics and imaging centers need to support costly maintenance and administration. These factors make MRI scans more expensive for patients.
If not ordered by a health professional, an MRI scan may not be covered by your health insurance plan. You may decide to call your insurance company to determine how their insurance policy would impact the final out-of-pocket cost for an MRI.
An elective or uninsured MRI visit would probably mean that you’ll be paying the total cost of the screening.
Repeat screenings, such as the ezra full-body MRI, help to monitor your body across time and flag any abnormalities early, which can have significant and sometimes lifesaving consequences.
Ezra’s full-body MRI screening costs $1,950, or $180 per month, and includes a 45-minute follow-up consultation with a medical provider.
ezra Full Body: An MRI Screening Without a Referral
Ezra provides a full-body MRI screening of up to 13 organs and does not require a doctor’s referral. Our medical team prepares the required medical order for each member.
While we do not require a physician’s referral for an ezra screening, our medical team does require each member to fill out a medical questionnaire before their screening appointment, as well as provide any information necessary to fill out a medical order. Depending on your medical history, you may also be asked to schedule an initial consultation with one of our medical providers to ensure that the screening is safe for you.
We also offer multi-year plans for those who wish to receive full-body MRI scans every year, thus preventing diseases before they happen.
Members interested in scheduling repeat screenings may sign up for ezra’s multi-year plans.
Ezra partners with existing state-of-the-art radiology centers to maximize MRI machine usage and minimize maintenance and administrative costs, making the screenings more affordable.
For Physicians: We’re Here To Help!
As a medical professional, partnering with ezra allows you to refer patients for preventive screenings quickly and at no cost to your practice.
Our Hub platform lets you invite patients to schedule appointments with our partner imaging facilities. Within seven days of the patient’s screening, your patient’s ezra report will be accessible within your ezra dashboar
MRI Options: Your Next Steps
Yes, getting an MRI scan without a doctor’s referral is possible. While your doctor is your primary care provider, you can stay in control of your health care by eating healthy, exercising, and keeping up with your annual health screenings.
At ezra, booking your full-body MRI screening is easy.