June 03, 2016

ACR 2016 Focuses on the Patient Experience

Radiologists who attended ACR 2016: The Crossroads of Radiology® received an expanded view of the College’s new Patient- and Family-Centered Care Initiative and descriptions of its ramifications for enhancing their relevance to medicine.

Numerous presentations emphasized that radiology’s long-term survival will revolve around its practitioners’ ability to earn their patients’ trust and get them to understand that diagnostic imaging performed and interpreted by radiologists is the essential starting point for their medical treatment.

During the prestigious Moreton Lecture, Andrew DeLao, a senior marketing manager with GE Medical Systems, warned radiologists that they will become irrelevant if they continue allow other physicians to tell their story. Hospitals and their radiologist departments are too geared toward efficiency and high throughput, with too little emphasis placed on allowing radiologists to communicate with patients about their imaging results and learn about their needs, he said.

To assert themselves, radiologist should pick up the phone and begin connecting with their patients, DeLao stressed.

“It is better that you do it than the primary care physician because the primary care doctor will use your words (taken from your radiologist’s reports) anyway,” he said.
James V. Rawson, MD, FACR, chair of the American College of Radiology’s Commission on Patient- and Family-Centered Care, argued in the separate presentation that radiologists need to engage patients because the people whom radiologists image should be considered experts when it comes to their unique perspectives as recipients of diagnostic and therapeutic imaging.

MD Anderson Cancer Center’s experience with patient satisfaction surveys suggests that radiologists should not rely only on the medical literature or general assertions about patients’ wants and needs. Joseph R. Steele, MD, a professor of interventional radiology at the Houston-based cancer center, advised ACR2016 attendees that every hospital serves a unique set of patients who have vastly different needs and desires that shape their healthcare experience. Radiologists should interact with patients informally at first to gain a direct understanding of their opinions before following up with a formal patient survey so these views can be measured, assessed and monitored along with continued direct patient contact as policies are implemented in response to their points of view.

In another session, Garry Choy, MD, MBA, a staff radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), explained that his department’s effort to create a positive patient experience begins with the first impression made in the waiting room through friendly receptionists, clean, comfortable furniture and a short wait before the imaging process begins.

With patient input, the staff developed a list of “Always” behaviors that apply to every patient all the time. This includes providing the patient with a precise estimate of his or her wait time, protecting patient privacy by placing the changing rooms as close as possible to the imaging suites and developing a smart phone app linked to the radiology information system so the technologists can quickly respond to changing room availability. Frequent patient orientation and re-orientation is emphasized, with every care provider, including radiologists, introducing themselves to patients and describing their role in the imaging and diagnostic process.

MGH also established a diagnostic radiology consultation clinic for patients through a collaboration between radiologists and primary care physicians (PCPs). Patients have given the service rave reviews, Choy said. Radiologists review imaging with patients via referrals from PCPs. The program has now been integrated into radiology resident rotation to become an integral part of training.

C. Matthew Hawkins, MD, a pediatric interventional radiologist at Emory University, stressed the need for community-building to establish sustainable momentum toward a “patient-first” culture for radiology. He believes social media, especially Twitter, offers an excellent mechanism to pursue this goal. He notes that all types of stakeholders representing patients, patient advocates, hospital administrators, and radiologic technologists and radiologists can join communal discussions to develop strategies and tactics to improve the patient experience. For an example, he pointed to the Radiology Hashtag #Ontology, which recorded 123,000 tweets from 28,000 different individuals in 2015.

“Our community needs to be defined by our traits, not less so by our science,” Hawkins said. “That’s how we are going to establish the discipline of performance improvement and to begin to understand how social media can be used strategically.”