If you’ve just had an MRI you may be wondering how quickly you can see your MRI results online. With PocketHealth, your health records are at your fingertips.
Knowing how to access your MRI results can give you valuable insights into your health and allow you to have more informative conversations when discussing the results with your referring practitioner. Having access to your medical records is also the law according to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) in the U.S. and the Privacy Act in Canada, including Ontario’s Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) at the provincial level.
Having access to high-quality images alongside the radiologist’s report for your MRI gives you the freedom to take control of your health and share your results with any care provider you choose, making it easy to get a second opinion and compare medical documents over time. By accessing your imaging records through PocketHealth you can securely store, understand and share all your images and reports. Access your records here.
Knowing what to expect and what to do with the information in your MRI results can help you understand:
- How quickly you can access your MRI results
- What terms are in your MRI report
- How to share your MRI results with care providers and family
- Who has access to those results
How long do you typically wait for MRI results?
The imaging clinic or hospital will typically send your MRI results to your referring physician within a week of your scan, but that timing can change depending on different factors impacting your specific case.
Circumstances that might change how quickly you receive your MRI results include:
- The urgency of your case. In some instances, MRI results can be expedited and sent to your physician sooner than a week.
- The complexity of your scan. MRI scans that cover a larger area or require an in-depth assessment may take the radiologist longer to review.
- Whether the radiologist requires more information. Your physician may send you for more imaging or repeated imaging, under the advice of the radiologist who needs more information to properly assess your case.
- Comparing different MRI images and reports over time. The radiologist who reviews your imaging will compare it to previous MRIs or other medical imaging you’ve done in the past.
- Transferring your MRI results to your referring practitioner. Diagnostic imaging, including MRIs, is often transferred to your primary care provider electronically or using CDs. In some cases, technical issues can cause portions of your results to arrive separately from each other.
You’re not alone if you feel anxious waiting for your MRI results: over 50% of Canadians feel anxious or stressed waiting for medical test results, according to a 2023 PocketHealth survey. Having secure, online access to your MRI results as soon as they are available can help reduce stress or “scanxiety”—and 68% of Canadians want access to effectively advocate for their health.
Your MRI results may be available online through your referring physician’s patient portal or the imaging clinic, but these sharing methods don’t always include the images, or, if images are included, they may not be in diagnostic quality. Diagnostic-quality imaging is important because it allows you to view your results just as your physician does and means you can easily get a second opinion.
5 benefits of having access to your MRI results
It’s easy to feel in the dark about your health while waiting for your physician to share the results. PocketHealth helps you gain some control over your healthcare journey by giving you fast, easy and secure access to your medical reports, as soon as they are available. Here are 5 ways PocketHealth helps ensure you are a partner, not a passenger, in your own care:
- You get faster, easier access. PocketHealth enables you to see your images and reports the moment they’re released by the radiologist and view them from any device. No need to anxiously await your follow-up doctor’s appointment.
- You can share your results. If you want to keep your entire healthcare team up to date or need a second opinion, you can email, print or fax a secure access page to another practitioner, from your account. And that practitioner doesn’t need to be on PocketHealth to view your MRI images in full, diagnostic quality.
- You can ask more informed questions. It can be difficult to decipher the complex medical terms in your MRI report. With PocketHealth Report Reader, you can easily understand what those terms mean, allowing you to have more informative conversations with your practitioner during a follow-up appointment.
- You’ll never miss a follow-up. A study from the American College of Radiology reports that 60% of medical imaging recommendations are never followed up on. With PocketHealth Follow-Up Navigator, you’ll know when a follow-up is needed, allowing you to be on top of the recommended next steps.
- You own your records. All your records are secured with bank-level encryption technology and will always be centralized in one place for you to access and share. PocketHealth secure storage helps you avoid requesting records in writing, which can take 30-60 days and may require a fee.
With access to your MRI imaging and report, PocketHealth enables you to arrive at your next appointment feeling confident, informed and ready to participate in your own care.
How to understand your MRI results?
The radiologist who reviews your MRI results will create a report about what they see and send both the MRI images and report to your referring physician. Your MRI images may be taken in three different ways to capture a complete 360-degree picture for the radiologist to examine.
- Coronal. This is a front-view picture that presents a mirror image of your body. For example, in a coronal view of an MRI scan, the left side of the body will be on the right side of the image, and vice versa.
- Sagittal. A sagittal or side-view image is a cross-sectional capture taken from the side-profile view of the body.
- Axial. An axial image is a cross-sectional view that will also present as a mirror image. In an axial view of an MRI scan, images are taken from feet to head or bottom to top.
When analyzing your results, a radiologist considers the color and intensity of MRI images, which depends on the type of MRI sequence:
- T1-weighted sequences clearly show the anatomy of the body and the amount of water an area contains, which appears black.
- T2-weighted sequences also show the amount of water tissue and organ structures have, which helps indicate irregularities or injuries. Areas of the body like cysts, cerebral spinal fluid or swelling will appear white, while organs or muscles typically appear grey. Tumors and infections show up bright and stand out.
- FLAIR sequences or fluid attenuated inversion recovery images assist in diagnosing brain injuries or illnesses. These sequences show water, including cerebral spinal fluid, and some brain irregularities, as black.
- STIR sequences or short tau inversion recovery images allow injuries to appear brighter by making all the fat in any area of the body appear black, allowing for high-contrast images.
- Fat-saturated images make areas of fat appear black and can help isolate whiter areas in the sequence.
Next steps after an MRI appointment
It is important that you attend any scheduled follow-up appointments with your physician to discuss the results of your MRI. Even if you have access to your own MRI images and report, your physician can give you essential insight into your results because they will be able to view your MRI images within the context of any other tests or appointments you’ve had in the past. Your physician will also discuss any next steps with you and give you all the information you need to decide what’s next.
If you use PocketHealth to access your MRI results, Report Reader can help you understand certain medical terms in your MRI report. Report Reader provides simple, clear definitions for complex terms and identifies follow-up recommendations, allowing you to keep tabs on any next steps.
Who has access to my MRI results?
Your MRI results may be available to many different parties, depending on your individual case. The radiologist reviewing your MRI results will have access, as will your referring physician, but in some cases, insurance companies and different care centers require access as well.
Here’s a list of individuals and other parties who may have access to your MRI results:
- You. Patients are legally allowed access to their own medical records, including imaging and reports under HIPPA in the U.S. and the PHIA in Canada. You can gain access to your medical records through some patient portals or via secure online platforms like PocketHealth.
- The MRI technologist. Your MRI will be conducted by a trained technologist, who will capture the images during your procedure before sending them to the radiologist.
- The radiologist. The clinic or hospital where you get your MRI will have radiologists on staff to closely review your imaging and create a report based on what they see. This report is sent directly to your referring physician. You can get access as soon as the report is ready, using PocketHealth.
- Your primary care provider (often a referring physician). The radiologist will send your MRI images and report to your primary care provider, who will review the results and discuss them with you at a follow-up appointment.
- Parent or legal guardian. In cases where a minor requires an MRI, a parent or legal guardian will have access to their medical reports to facilitate medical care and treatment.
- Advocate or caregiver. In cases where a patient cannot sign a consent form to receive their medical records, their advocate or caregiver will receive the records on their behalf.
- Insurance companies. When an MRI is required to assess the details of an injury or treatment requiring insurance coverage, an insurance company has the right to review medical imaging and reports.
- Care facilities. Nurses and staff at long-term care facilities can view the records of patients who require specialized care. In many cases, treatment is ongoing, and staff need up-to-date medical records to provide the best care.
- Rehabilitation centers: Patients who visit a rehabilitation center may require medical treatment during their stay, and attendant doctors or nurses can view their records to ensure they provide the best care.
- Hospitals and labs. These facilities often need to review current and prior medical records, including MRI imaging and reports, to make sure they can provide the appropriate treatment and recommendations.
Being an advocate for your health
Waiting for an MRI result can be a nerve-wracking process. Having secure access to your images and reports gives you the opportunity to understand the MRI results ahead of an appointment with your physician, so you can prepare more informed questions about any next steps in your healthcare journey.
How PocketHealth works
Learn more about how to use PocketHealth to access and share your MRI records.