The importance of clear communication to patients in healthcare is undoubtedly an extremely important part of any clinician’s job. Clear communication to the patient has been proven to show greater outcomes and overall greater patient satisfaction. With the focus on interoperability in healthcare now, much greater emphasis is being placed on clearer and more efficient communication between organizations and systems, which can ultimately lead to clearer and more transparent communication to the patient. It is with this in mind that communication, and communicating with patients, is becoming more essential to radiologists.
One of the key takeaways from the Association for Medical Imaging Management conference this year was that it is essential for radiologist administrators to put a focus on caring about the patient experience. While this comes from a managerial standpoint, a recent NYT article suggests that both radiologists and patients desire more contact in order to deliver results more efficiently. It seems the days of radiologists, isolated, doing their readings and sending results, are over. With the renewed importance in the field of patient-centric care, and in order to give the patient the best experience, their radiologist may need to be involved. An issue both radiologists and patients attest to is an occasional lack of transparency when it come to receiving readings in a timely manner, as it is up to their physician’s discretion when to deliver results.
According to this article, both the Radiological Society of North America, and the American College of Radiology have initiatives that are working towards greater radiologist accessibility for patients. Examples of this involve allowing patients access to their radiologist in person or by phone, as well as easier access to their medical records. There are possible negative aspects to consider; a radiologist can do an accurate reading of a medical image, but will not be able to provide next steps to patients which could leave patients hanging until their primary doctor is available. Overall though, the consensus seems to be that greater access to radiologists leads to greater patient satisfaction because patients will no longer be kept in the dark waiting for possible life altering results.
Dr. Geraldine McGinty, a chairwoman at the American College at Radiology, believes a change in the system like this necessiates a shift in the culture. What is clear is that to achieve this greater access
in a way that is positive for clinicians, patients and radiologists, it falls on radiologists to open these lines of communication and to facilitate this culture shift. Developing relationships between the physicians they work with can allow for comfortable communication with patients. The expectations for radiologists are changing. With a focus on the satisfaction of patients, it is no longer simply a clinician’s duty to communicate effectively with patients, but it is now becoming a radiologists responsibility, too.