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Patient Support FAQ’s

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers for Patients

Click on + next to a heading for all questions and answers relating to that topic.

Referrals

Q – Do you accept referrals on blank paper

We accept medicare eligible referrals written on blank paper or on any other radiology service provider’s stationery for examinations which we are able to perform.

Q – I do not have my referral; can I still have the examination?

The referral is an important legal and medicare required document.  If you have lost or forgotten your referral and we cannot get a copy from your referring practitioner when you arrive for your examination, your appointment will almost certainly be postponed.

To help minimise this, you can send us a scan of your referral – using the online booking form HERE.  This also helps us accurately book your appointment.

Appointments

Q – Do I need to make an appointment

For most Radiology examinations an appointment is needed because often you need to undertake specific preparation which you are told about when you book your appointment. It also helps us schedule the day as different appointments take different amounts of time and require different medical staff involvement.

We provide a walk-in general x-ray service at the following branches:  Ballina, Byron Bay, Orion St in Northern Rivers, Grafton & Maclean in Clarence Valley, Chatswood and Ryde in Sydney

Q – I have a medically urgent examination; When can you fit me in?

Where we have a medically urgent request, we accommodate patients as soon as possible. For many such cases we are often notified directly by referring Practitioners.

Delays can unexpectedly happen for a number of reasons including the fact that some NCRG branches support local hospital sites and this can mean the need to prioritise emergency hospital patients.  Also some examinations can take longer than expected.

We appreciate your patience when waiting for yourappointment.

Q – How can I make an appointment?

You can initiate a non-medically urgent appointment booking online using the link provided HERE. Your booking will only be finalised when our reception staff have contacted you to confirm the appointment, examination and preparation requirements. You can also ring a branch directly. Click on Locations in the menu for a list of all branches.

Q – Will I receive an appointment reminder?

We are calling or sending SMS notifications for some types of appointments but not all. To make sure that you receive these notifications we will need to store your mobile phone number in our system.

Preparation

Q – Do you have information about preparation online?

Each examination may have specific preparation requirements.  When we confirm your appointment, we will advise you of your specific preparation requirements.  General information is also provided within each service HERE.

Q – I have been asked to fast (or have a full bladder). Why do I need to prepare for my examination?

Many examinations have specific preparation requirements which, if not followed may require your appointment to be rescheduled.  The preparation is vital to ensure an effective investigation of your medical condition.

If you have any questions regarding the preparation instructions you have been given or you do not fully understand them, please contact your local branch.

Branch information is found HERE

Billing Policy

Q – I am an inpatient with Private Medical Insurance – does that cover my fees?

As a private patient staying in hospital, most policies cover a myriad of expenses charged by the actual hospital including theatre and equipment, theatre nurses, a room/bed, medications and most prosthetics. Hospital Cover, however, does not always include Doctor Cover and as such, as an in-patient you may be charged a fee by our practice. Please refer to your Private Insurance Policy for further information regarding what, if any, ‘Gap Fees’ your policy covers. If applicable, on discharge from Hospital, you may need to submit a ‘2-Way Claim’ with your private fund and Medicare to maximise available rebates.
North Coast Radiology Group is a private practice with some branches within a private hospital. Radiology fees are separate from any hospital related fees.

Q – I am in financial hardship, can you please help me?

If you are experiencing financial difficulties and are having an examination which is not fully covered by the medicare rebate or does not qualify for a rebate, we have some flexible options available to support you . Conditions apply so please speak with our staff when you book your appointment.

Q – Why are examinations not all bulk billed?

North Coast Radiology Group (NCRG) Bulk Bills a range of services across many Modalities, locations and holders of eligible Pension or Health Care Cards.

North Coast Radiology is a privately owned Radiology Specialist practice and has to fully meet its costs which is why some services have a gap fee.

North Coast Radiology Group aims to minimise these costs for patients through flexible payment options, advance notice of any fees and the flexibility to support patients’ changing needs.

Medicare Australia offers a safety net system to help patients paying large amounts towards medical expenses over and above the Medicare rebate. For more information phone the Medicare Hotline 13 20 11, or see their website http://medicareaustralia.gov.au/public/services/msn/index.jsp.

Q – How do I pay my bill?

Payment of your account in full on the day of your examination is preferred, with cash, credit card, cheque and EFTPOS being available payment options.

Billing payment information is explained in detail HERE

Billing and account enquiries can be made at your local branch or online HERE

Paying Accounts

Q -How do I pay my bill?

Payment of your account in full on the day of your examination is preferred, with cash, credit card, cheque and EFTPOS being available payment options.

Billing payment information is explained in detail HERE

Billing and account enquiries can be made at your local branch or online HERE

Q – I have received a reminder notice today but I thought I paid on the day. What is the reminder for?

If an account balance shows an outstanding amount, account statements are automatically generated. Account balances generally exist when you have paid just the gap fee and are waiting to receive the rebate from Medicare.

If you continue to receive these communications from us, it may be that you have received the rebate cheque from Medicare (about 90 days) and forgot to forward it to NCRG, resulting in your account balance still showing as outstanding. In this situation, this cheque needs to be forwarded to us.

If you have any questions please contact your local branch or submit an enquiry HERE.

Privacy

Q – Why do I need to sign forms such as privacy or consent?

North Coast Radiology Group (NCRG) has a number of professional and privacy responsibilities.

The forms we give you to complete may relate to managing your privacy and are a legal requirement.

Your may also be required to complete documents specific to the examination you are having to help ensure your maximum medical safety.

Q – What is your privacy Policy?

We adhere to the National Privacy Principles and Health Privacy Principles  in  its handling of patients’ personal information.

The Policy can be downloaded via this link Patient Privacy

Radiation

Q – How much Radiation am I exposed to?

Ionising radiation surrounds us all day, everyday, and gives us a “natural” or “background” radiation dose. Sources of background radiation include cosmic, the sun, rocks and soil, buildings, air we breath, the food and drink we ingest and even our own bodies.

 

It comes from below us because of the decay of elements like uranium and thorium. It comes from around us due to radon gas, which is in the atmosphere and collects in buildings. It comes from above us in the form of cosmic radiation.

 

Typical values (in mSv) for exposure are:

  • Natural background: 0.5 – 2.5
  • Aircraft crew additional annual exposure: 2
  • Astronaut in space for one month: 15
  • Recommended annual occupational limit: 20
  • Chest x-ray (NHMRC survey for Australian x-ray practices 1985): 0.01-15.5
  • Mammography (NHMRC 1985): 4
  • DXA (bone mineral density): .005
  • Radiotherapy dose to treat prostate cancer: 60000 – 70000

Q – How safe is medical Radiation?

There have been many studies on the effects of ionising radiation. The major source of data is from the result of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Many people were irradiated with very high doses of ionising radiation. It has been assumed, but never proven, that there is a proportional effect from lower doses of radiation. That is, if a lot of radiation causes damage to a lot of people, then a very small amount of radiation may cause damage to a small amount of people. This argument assumes there is no “safe” threshold below which ionising radiation will not cause any ill effects, however medical diagnostic irradiation is low dose.

 

The BEIR (Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation) V Report 1990 “Health Effects of Exposure to Low Levels of Ionising Radiation”, found that the potential to cause cancer “was observed at relatively high doses and usually at high dose rates”. The report also found that “…genetic risks were not of great importance in considering the safety of medical radiation exposures. This committee believes that adequate control of the carcinogenic hazard will adequately handle the risk of genetic damage … x-rays and other medical treatments involving radiation clearly remain appropriate when benefits outweigh the risks.”

Q – What is Ionising Radiation?

High energy electromagnetic radiation is called “ionising radiation”. X-rays are a form of ionising radiation.

Ionising radiation has major benefits, including medical imaging and sterilisation of food and medical equipment.

Ionising radiation has the potential to be harmful to living organisms, depending on the type of radiation, the organ involved, the intensity of and the duration of the exposure.

Q – How is Radiation dose measured?

The different measuring systems are complicated, but the usual standard is the “millisievert” or mSv. The millisievert is a measure of the radiation absorbed by the body.

Q – Radiation and Pregnancy

“…radiation exposure of the lower abdomen and pelvis of women of reproductive capacity should be kept to a minimum and during pregnancy, radiation exposure to these regions should only occur if the radiological examination cannot be postponed because of the urgent nature of the investigation.

 

“In such cases, greater than usual care should be taken to minimise the number of views and to minimise the absorbed dose per view.  However, these alterations of technique should not be done to the undue detriment of the diagnostic value of the examination.” National Health and Medical Research Council 1985.

 

“The International Commission on Radiological Protection recommendations for inadvertent exposure to radionuclides from diagnostic testing states that, based on relative risk increment, foetal radiation exposure from a diagnostic procedure rarely justifies termination of a pregnancy. This principle can also be applied to diagnostic x-ray examinations.

 

“There is a relatively high prevalence of congenital defects in humans (approximately 5%); therefore, it is impossible to ascertain scientifically whether any given exposure will produce a congenital birth defect.  There is even conjecture by some that genetic mutations from irradiation do not occur in humans or at least are not detectable from the dose ranges used in diagnostic studies”.

Q – How does North Coast Radiology Group reduce the risk of Radiation?

It is important to keep the radiation dose as low as possible. In practice, this is called ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable). This is a fundamental principle of all NCR imaging procedures in order to protect our patients to the best of our ability.

 

You should also be aware that it is in our own interest to reduce radiation, as all the doctors and staff may be exposed to part of the radiation that each patient receives, by a process called “scatter”.

 

All of our equipment is regularly and routinely serviced. Annual checks are made of the radiation each machine generates, and tests performed to make sure there are no radiation leaks. The equipment itself utilises computerised exposure control.

Examination Results and Images

Q – When will my results be sent back to my Referrer?

Your results will be sent to your referring practitioner usually from around 24 hours of your examination. For medically urgent results allow at least 2 hours from the conclusion of your examination.

Please note that your Doctor may not be able to review your examination results immediately.  Please contact your referrer to determine how best your results will be communicated back to you.

Q – Why do I have to wait for my results?

At North Coast Radiology Group (NCRG) a Medical Technician performs the examination and gathers the necessary images and related information such as measurements. These are passed to the Radiologist to analyse.    Non-medically urgent examination results are therefore not available immediately. Medically urgent examinations are reported as soon as possible.

Q – How does my referring practitioner access my results?

We make it possible for valid referring practitioners to access results and images through secure gateways online or directly via practice management software.

Referring Practitioners apply for accounts to enable them to view information about their patients who have given appropriate consent. Alternatively, some doctors receive reports via fax or in the post.

Once a report has been validated by a NCRG Radiologist, the images and report are distributed through these mechanisms to your referring practitioner. Post and Faxed reports will take longer to arrive at their destination compared with the more instant nature of digitally delivered reports.

Q – I am visiting a Doctor outside this area, can they access my results online?

Depending on the doctor, they may already have that ability with your consent. If that is not possible the following options exist:

1 The specialist can request one-time access to your specific examination/s and results. Please let them know they can do this online via our referrer support section.

2 You can request results and images be sent to a specific referrer or made available to you to take with you. To do this, click HERE.

Q – Can I get a set of films for my personal records?

At the time of your examination, you will be advised of the film and reporting preferences of your referring practitioner. If your referrer has digital access to your results, you may not automatically receive a set of films. You can choose this but fees may apply. Click HERE.

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MEDICAL TERMS EXPLAINED

Below are some of the medical terms that you will come across while browsing this site. This list is by no means exhaustive, but is designed to provide you with a better understanding of the terms and procedures discussed.

Angiography: imaging of the arteries and veins of the body.

Barium: an element which is opaque to x-rays, meaning x-rays cannot pass through. Barium is used in some x-ray procedures in the form of a water based suspension which coats surfaces. See, for example, Barium Swallow/Meal examination.

Bone Densitometry: Using Dual Energy X-ray Absorption (DEXA), this examination is used to measure bone mineral density. The most common cause for loss of bone density is osteoporosis.

B-flow: a form of ultrasound imaging which shows flowing blood as well as the vessel walls.

Contrast: a substance which allows imaging of structures which cannot be seen using conventional imaging. Contrast may be swallowed, applied or injected.

CT (Computed Tomography): a specialised form of x-ray imaging where cross-sections of the body are generated.

Doppler: a form of ultrasound where information can be obtained on flowing blood in arteries and veins. The information can be represented as Colour Doppler (where the blood flow is shown as blue and red), or Duplex (where velocity of blood flow can be measured).

Fibroadenoma: a common breast lump in younger women. It can usually be seen with mammography or ultrasound. A fibroadenoma is benign but may require biopsy for firm diagnosis.

Mammography: low dose x-rays are used to image the internal structure of the breasts.

Myelography: an x-ray which shows the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots using x-ray contrast. Myelograms can look at the neck or back.

Nuchal: the skin at the back of the neck. By measuring the nuchal thickness at the time of an ultrasound done at a certain stage of pregnancy, an estimate can be made of the risk of a foetus having Down syndrome.

Oncology: the medical specialty concerned with the treatment of cancer.

OPG: short for orthopantogram, which is an x-ray technique for imaging the bones of the jaws and the teeth.

Osteodensitometry: a method of measuring the bone mineral density.

Osteoporosis: Bone mass is greatest in the young, and declines with age, particularly in women after the menopause. The most common cause of decrease in bone density is osteoporosis.

Radiology: traditionally, the medical specialty dealing with imaging by x-ray. There has been an explosion in many fields of radiology over the past ten to fifteen years, and radiologists now also use other imaging methods such as ultrasound, and also use imaging to perform procedures (interventional radiology).

Radiation: for our purposes, electromagnetic radiation, in particular, x-rays.

Ultrasound: uses high frequency sound to produce images of the internal structures of the body. The principle is similar to that used by a ship’s Sonar.

Vascular: the arteries and veins, from large vessels like the aorta and vena cava to tiny vessels within body organs and tumours.

X-ray: a form of ionising radiation used to image some internal structures of the body

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