Siobhain Sullivan knows that the coronavirus pandemic has made breast imaging, an already stressful procedure, even more anxiety inducing.
Luckily for patients, the Rhode Island Medical Imaging practice at 1526 Atwood Ave. recently saw its new spa-like breast-imaging wing become fully operational. Sullivan, the chief operating officer for clinical operations, said the vision was first realized at the East Greenwich location before moving over to Johnston as well.
The area is complete with calming music, a waterfall in the waiting room, plushy bathrobes for every patient and a changing room with stalls to provide privacy.
“[It’s] very calming to the patients,” Sullivan said, giving a tour to Beacon Communications last Tuesday. “The patients are coming in anxious. It’s not the most comfortable exam for a patient to go through and it puts them in a better headspace. It makes them feel more comfortable, sort of helps them forgot the bad experience of what the exam maybe entails. It helps them feel comfortable, at ease, relaxed.”
Sullivan said RIMI is unique when it comes to the spa-like setting, taking extra care in its creation. She said the wing has received “overall great reviews,” and patients “highly comment quite often” on their time spent there.
It’s just not the atmosphere either, she said. Sullivan said RIMI has paid special attention to creating a safe environment, which entails limiting the amount of patients allowed in at once.
“We have always taken the patient’s care first, and making sure that their needs are met,” Sullivan said. “Cleaning regularly, making sure that every hour on the hour, general spaces are cleaned in between every patient – that’s always taken care of – but now we’ve limited the amount of patients waiting in the waiting room. We limit the amount of patients that are in the facility at the same time. Obviously every patient’s required to wear masks, employees all wear masks, so patients are more comfortable having their one-on-one care.”
Sullivan said that there have been no compliance issues with RIMI’s COVID-19 protocols, and she lauded Gov. Gina Raimondo’s constant push to enforce social distancing and mask wearing.
Patients are instructed to wait in their car until RIMI is ready for their exam, and a text message is delivered 90 minutes before the appointment with a link to screening information.
“Once they get to our parking lot and they click on a link, they fill out a screening tool for COVID questions and then one of our employees call them to register them. That’s all set,” Sullivan said. “As soon as we’re ready to go straight into the exam room, we give them a call and tell them to come in so they don’t have to come in and wait in the waiting room and limit their contact with any other patients.”
Linda Donegan, the director of breast imaging, gave the wing top marks in her interview with Beacon Communications. She said the waterfall, robes and music – combined with the overall spa-like environment – has worked to “help reduce patient anxiety and create the best possible patient experience.”
“I think that the COVID-19 pandemic presents challenges, but we have our everyday health care challenges and we can’t neglect our own health care due to fear or anxiety about coming in, and I think we’re following our national guidelines, we’re following our state guidelines, and self-care is really important,” Donegan said. “I think patients tell us that they feel comfortable, they feel safe, and I think all of the extra measures that we’re doing in the environment really puts them at ease.”
Donegan said that the RIMI staff “is what makes us great,” adding that their specialty-trained employees go above and beyond to help patients.
Patient feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and most say they feel comfortable coming to the center.
“It’s very relaxing with the state-of-the-art equipment,” Donegan said. “I think it’s important for patients to know that they need to continue to see their doctors. They need to continue doing screening studies, including having their annual mammograms. Those are very important.”
Donegan, who has worked at RIMI for 17 years, said the breast imaging field is a “different world now” compared to when she was hired. She said vast improvements have been made in early detection and treatment, and more breakthroughs are anticipated in the future.
At RIMI, she has state-of-the-art equipment at her disposal, and Donegan said she’s excited to use it to save lives.
“It gives us the best opportunity to detect breast cancers early when they’re smaller and more easily treated,” Donegan said. “I think that screening mammography is important. Screening mammography saves lives.”