Ruth E. Hawthorne, Radiology Affiliates Imaging administrator, and Joan Veltri, RAI office administrator, were part of the vision team that helped design the Women’s Imaging Suite, where they are shown seated. The suite is one of the waiting rooms found at the medical imaging center’s newest office on Kuser Road. Staff photo by Diana Pichardo.
Joan Veltri, Radiology Affiliates Imaging office administrator, and Ruth E. Hawthorne, RAI administrator, are standing before the 3.0T MRI machine, a premier imaging device that offers double the typical MRI magnetic strength and is generally used at major university hospitals, but can be found at the medical imaging center’s latest office on Kuser Road. Staff photo by Diana Pichardo.

A typical ride to the radiology center is usually not a joyous one.

“When people come to a radiology center they are fearful,” said Ruth E. Hawthorne, Radiology Affiliates Imaging administrator. “Most times, their doctor suspects something’s wrong. When they walk through the door, they tend to be very anxious.”

What can make that even worse is entering a center to find a cold, sterile environment that is as unfamiliar as the situation itself.

That’s why the latest Radiology Affiliates Imaging office at 2501 Kuser Road since September 2007, is patient-friendly from its individually divided front service desk to the reclining chair ambient waiting rooms.

RAI is a full service imaging center that offers MRI/MRA, multi-slice CT, ultrasound, bone densitometry, digital x-rays, and digital mammography with Computer Aided Detection. But it’s not run like your grandmother’s medical imaging center of yesteryear. “We wanted to create the environment that was not typical of a radiology centers or a medical facility,” she said.

When entering RAI, patients are exposed to the message the longtime company hopes to share: that it understands the feelings, emotions and concerns of those that seek their services and their need for quick response, Hawthorne said.

“Part of creating our vision, was to relieve the patient as soon as they came through the doors’” she said. “We try to create a little more of a protective environment for our patients.”

The center has intricately decorated waiting rooms with warm paintings, stylish accent pieces, wicker cabinets, relaxing chairs, seven bathrooms, snack and refreshments baskets, reading material and more to make patients feel at home. The Suite for Women’s Imaging was designed to help offer women a calm space while awaiting breast screenings or bone density screenings, Hawthorne said. Inside the doors of the suite is a spa-like waiting room.

“I really wanted to create an environment away from that [front desk processing] so when you come through the here, it’s an experience as well,” Hawthorne said. “You can have a cup of tea, we have spiritual reading, it’s just a time to relax it’s a time for yourself.”

Little details like having a basket of packaged flower seeds available to take home, or shirts, or silly putty for children are found throughout the center.

“There wasn’t a thing we picked that didn’t have the patient in mind,” she said. It was all a part of RAI’s vision of what a radiology center should be, she said.

“We knew what we would be looking for in an environment ourselves,” said Joan Veltri, RAI office administrator, of Hamilton. “We knew what we cared about and that’s what we wanted to be able to provide the township of Hamilton with.”

The center is run on the newest technology systems.

The 3.0T MRI machine offers double the magnetic strength at 3 Tesla, double the strength of older MRI machines allowing for a sharper picture, rapid shooting and a more accurate diagnosis. It’s also non-claustrophobic. “It was a part of our vision to bring this new technology,” she said. ”We are the only ones in central New Jersey that have this high level of imaging.”

The machine is currently featured mostly at large university hospitals such as the University of Pennsylvania, or Mount Sinai Hospital, in New York, which meant patients had to travel. “We brought this to your back yard,” Hawthorne said. “We brought this to Hamilton. You don’t have to go to those big city hospitals to get what’s available right now.”

Also at the center is the The Multiple Slice CT, which can take 64 sliced photos of an area per second to be turned into 3D digital images for quicker and more flexible processing.

What the two machines also offer patients is the ability to engage in visual therapy while being imaged. On the ceilings are large photographic backdrops of puffy white clouds and flower-blossomed trees to create the illusion of staring into the springtime sky. Patients can also bring their own i-pods or other musical devices to listen to while being imaged.

At RAI, all the X-rays are digital, which offers higher quality imaging and readability. Radiologists are able to open up an X-ray onto their computers screens shortly after it is taken. They can zoom in or out, highlight, or mark certain areas, while dictating their reports into microphones, which automatically transcribe the words into a word processing document. It’s all done before the patient leaves the center. RAI uses Radiology Information Services and Picture Archiving and Communication System to help them achieve quicker processing. Part of what’s enabled RAI to feature the high-tech equipment is a joint-venture with Capital Health System, an acute-care teaching hospital.

RAI has served the community for more 30 years, with an initial office on Kuser Road, a second move to Whitehorse Mercerville Road and now at the new location. Although the surroundings may have upgraded, the message for patients is the same, Veltri said.

“I want them to feel that they’re in a place that they know they’re going to get the study done the proper way with the right answer,” she said.

Additional locations in Lawrenceville and East Windsor offer many of the same services.

For more information, call (609) 585-8800 or go online to 4RAI.com.