Māori & Pasifika patients get quicker access to MRI reports under pilot project

By Te Ao - Māori News

Māori and Pasifika patients have received quicker access to MRI reports under a successful pilot project set to be rolled out across the country, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Primary Care. 

The pilot programme involved GPs referring patients directly for MRIs. 

GP and Clinical Director for Turuki Healthcare Dr Lily Fraser told Te Ao Māori News that the process of getting quicker MRI results was leading to better health outcomes. She said that the process before was slow and could take between 4 to 6 weeks to request an MRI, relying on an orthopaedic surgeon to decide whether or not it was necessary.

Dr Lily Fraser / File
Previously, a GP could not make a direct referral for an MRI without going through a specialist, but the streamlined process under the pilot scheme means the patient can get an MRI and see a specialist in a much shorter timeframe. 

The results of the pilot show an increase in access for Māori and Pacific peoples, specifically Pasifika people aged 15-34 where the improvement is reported to have been 50% over the baseline.

“The direct referral pathway significantly reduced wait times from referral to MRI report, down from three weeks to an average of just five days, creating a much better patient experience,” says Dr Stephen Kara, the study’s lead author.

“Referring a patient to MRI via their local GP is a significant step in providing equitable access for Māori and Pacific peoples,” Dr Kara says.

The study looked at the outcomes of 550 MRIs ordered by 150 GPs over an 18-month period, under a new referral pathway co-designed by ACC, ProCare and Mercy Radiology.