Embracing Patient-Centered Care
Wednesday, Dec. 02, 2015
The call for patient-centered care is one of the primary drivers of change within radiology today and stands to transform the way the specialty is practiced, according to one of the foremost experts on the topic.
Radiologists who heed that call are advised to embrace a new mindset about patient care, said Mary C. Mahoney, M.D., in the Monday session, "A New Model of Patient Care: Value over Volume." She discussed tactics and resources that can help radiologists put the concepts of patient-centeredness and value vs. volume into practice.
"Being patient-centered means you've considered the patient experience holistically—from the first time they have contact with any member of your staff until the time they are given their reports—and, I would argue, into your follow-up communications," said Dr. Mahoney, the Liaison for Publications and Communications on the RSNA Board of Directors.
The benefits are considerable, Dr. Mahoney said. They include improved patient care, improved communication between radiologists and their patients and referring physicians, and greater awareness of the essential role that radiologists play in patients' overall healthcare," Dr. Mahoney said.
One patient presented a first-hand account of the value of patient-centered care. Christine Zars, M.S., R.D., was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma on her brain when she was just 19 years old. Now, 13 years later, she credits her medical team with not only saving her life, but also helping her and her support group through the trying ordeal. "A smile and a genuine interest in their personal life makes the patient feel like the doctor cares about them as a person, rather than just another patient," she said.
Zars said genuine compassion and building trust are key factors. She cited specific mannerisms such as smiling, shaking hands, listening with eye contact, and not rushing through appointments as important. She also appreciated being related to as a person, a continual interest in her personal life, the compassion extended to her family and friends and follow-up calls of assurance.
She said that trust was built through transparency and instilling confidence. "I believed that both of us were fighting this disease," Zars said.
Presenter Jennifer Kemp, M.D., chair of the RSNA Patient-centered Radiology Subcommittee that oversees the RSNA Radiology Cares® initiative, said, "Radiology can be a scary maze for our patients and we have the power to make the patient experience a little bit easier."
Dr. Kemp encouraged attendees to learn from others, starting with the Radiology Cares website, which offers numerous resources for physicians building a patient-centered practice, as well as the American College of Radiology (ACR) Imaging 3.0 initiative.
"There is no such thing as a perfect experience, but we can make it better," she said. Dr. Kemp suggested tools such as a patient postcard that explains what a radiologist does and when they will receive their results. She also recommended giving out a phone number and email address for follow-up questions, and offering amenities such as valet parking and internet access to make patients more comfortable.
Finally, Dr. Kemp said, treat others as you want to be treated by streamlining your entrance questionnaire and expediting scheduling.
Dr. James Rawson, M.D., chair of the ACR Commission on Patient Experience that is part of the Imaging 3.0 campaign, advocates for the creation of patient-focused care committees that include patients and focus on collaboration, flexibility, and empowerment.
"We need to look at the roles that patients can play in design teams, committees, planning teams, and even interviewing candidates," he said.
Dr. Rawson said listening to patients has led to improvements including a skylight over an MRI machine and a blanket warmer in the MRI room resulting from a patient who complained of being cold. Patient input also led to a mammography center than is more spa-like and less clinical.
"As our payment model changes in healthcare, patient satisfaction and the patient experience will play an increasing role," Dr. Rawson said. "Patient participation can help to change cultures. You are not the expert of their experience; they are.
"It will be hard to put the patient in the center of healthcare if we are standing there ourselves," he added.
Visit the Radiology Cares Booth at RSNA 2015 in RSNA Services in the Lakeside Center for more information, and go to RadiologyCares.org.