Breast-imaging patients and the radiologic technologists who serve them have long wished for a breast radiologist to be there for them—on call or already present—whenever questions or concerns arise in the exam room. Their wishes are now being granted, and the dawning of this new day owes largely to patient-facing, technology-based solutions like vRad’s new Live Video Diagnostics (LVD) solution.
The 50-state, nearly 500-radiologist telemedicine practice headquartered in Minnesota launched the offering in September. It’s been pointing to the future by showing its appeal to vRad’s client practices ever since.
“The idea came to us during a brainstorming session, and client interest has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Arlene Sussman, MD, the vRad medical director who oversees breast imaging practice-wide. “We knew the upfront work and development hours would be well worth the investment to provide an accessible way to make medicine in general, and radiology in particular, less anonymous and more personal. There isn’t a single site that doesn’t love it.”
Here’s how it works. Using innovative end-to-end Cisco networking architecture and a high-resolution 22-inch monitor, LVD connects a vRad breast imaging specialist—all of whom are board-certified and fellowship-trained—with the imaging site in real-time via video conferencing.
On designated workdays, patients, technologists or both of them together can, in real-time, video conference with a vRad radiologist. Mammography technicians can review and annotate images with the radiologist’s guidance and plan detailed next steps. And patients can receive personalized and compassionate care by reviewing their images and speaking directly to a vRad radiologist minutes after their diagnostic screening.
In this way it can “fill in the gaps,” Sussman says, “when attending radiologists are offsite, occupied or otherwise unavailable.”
“We’re face-to-face with patients and technologists,” says Sussman. “The only thing I can’t do is give the patient a hug.”
The first vRad client site to install LVD, the Center for Women’s Imaging at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, Texas, reports that imaging-exam durations have been cut from as much as an hour and a half to as little as half an hour.
LVD “allows us to provide results almost immediately,” says Carol Evans, RT, the center’s divisional director of radiology. “We either release the patients or, if there is an issue, send the results to their physician within hours—not days. This significantly improves the overall experience, care, and satisfaction for our patients.”
The time savings has further allowed the center to schedule more patients per day, building volume and better serving the community, Evans says. She emphasizes that LVD doesn’t replace the center’s onsite radiologists but, instead, seamlessly fills in for them as needed.
“Having technologists and patients speaking face-to-face with a radiologist,” she says, “is priceless.”
vRad’s live video diagnostics program has already proven itself more than just a worthwhile communications tool. It can also be an accreditation saver, Sussman says.
She recounts the recent case of a rural site in Texas that was in danger of losing its Breast Imaging Center of Excellence designation from the American College of Radiology.
The site had lost its only breast specialist to a tragic accident. Along with working through the heartbreak, the team had to press forward knowing that recruitment of an equally qualified replacement wouldn’t be easy, given their rural location.
“The facility contacted us for immediate assistance,” Sussman recalls. “We explained that working with LVD would be like having a highly credentialed breast imaging specialist sitting right there in their facility. They were thrilled.”
vRad expedited the LVD installation, and the story doesn’t end there.
“Not only did we save the day for them, their facility and their accreditation, but the patients themselves are loving it,” says Sussman. “They love that the center represents cutting-edge technology and that, by using the technology for themselves, they are up on the latest and greatest.”
Meanwhile, the staff likes that radiologist coverage will never again be an issue.
“Because there are so many of us at vRad, there is no interruption to service levels when somebody goes on vacation,” says Sussman. “There are no weekend misses, nothing like that. We can cover all our client sites 24/7 because we have