The "Invisible" Radiologist & Patient Experience in Your Department

Radiology doesn’t get much attention when it comes to discussing the patient experience, but that doesn't mean that patients aren't craving more information about what many perceive to be a "mysterious" specialty.
For Patient Experience Week 2020, we wanted to take an in-depth look at how the situation is evolving to bring us more of the spotlight.

What creates an “invisible radiologist”?

As you're likely well aware, some factors that create an invisible radiologist are inherent in the specialty.
For starters, most imaging is requested by providers and conducted by technicians, limiting direct interaction between radiologists and patients. Because of this, radiology practices tend to focus on provider referrals, rather than patient loyalty or satisfaction.
Other contributors to the invisible radiologist are simply part of modern medicine, for example...
A 2014 editorial in HealthManagement points out that increasingly digitized and remote healthcare puts the emphasis on data, rather than the individual patient. These factors can widen the gap between radiologists and patients.

Is the invisible radiologist a problem for patients?

Patients are more engaged in their own healthcare than they've ever been before, but many remain unsure about what radiologists do (see the "mysterious" specialty statement above).
This can create a gap in patient knowledge that can potentially affect health outcomes.
(Plus, the ongoing move to a value-based model will require a more team-based approach among providers--that includes radiologists.)
Patients who seek greater ownership of their health may desire more interactions with radiology practices. It seems then that radiologists should not only work to satisfy the referring provider’s orders but also to improve the patient’s experience.

So, how can radiologists create a better patient experience?

We came up with a few small actionable items that you can try implementing right away to show patients that your practice cares about them. For those of you already using these strategies, congratulations -- you are probably giving your patients a really positive experience!
  1. Focus on tangible elements, including department design and equipment, such as warm and friendly décor, freshly brewed coffee, or valet parking.
  2. Use strategies to improve empathy among radiologists, such as including a photo of a patient with their imaging results.
  3. Consider having radiologists directly communicate results to patients, using plain language, and delivering difficult news with timeliness and compassion.
Further ideas can be found in the RadioGraphics article on “Customer Service in Radiology.”
At Novarad, we know that excellent patient experience starts with the right solutions enabling your work.
Consider implementing a comprehensive imaging strategy instead of relying on your PACS alone -- our Ncompass Enterprise Imaging solution helps improve healthcare for both patients and providers by taking a vendor-agnostic approach to data accessibility, freeing you up to achieve more. Get in touch with us if you'd like to learn more.
Not sure you're a good candidate? Get in touch anyways and we can help you determine the best workflow for your situation.