Get Out of the Reading Room and Meet Your Patient

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There was a session at RSNA that you probably missed. And if you did attend it, there is a great chance that you have forgotten all of the valuable information you heard. So as a public service, I am providing the key points of this important meeting, which covered the challenges facing radiology:

  1. Both referring physicians and patients have ever-increasing expectations with respect to service quality, timeliness, and convenience.
  2. Economic and staffing constraints will always be significant.
  3. Too often, we have had a radiology-centric perspective on information technologies, concentrating only on how these electronic systems can enhance practice convenience and efficiency or lower local radiology operational costs. These consequences [of technology] can dramatically influence the role of the radiologist in patient care in the next millennium.
  4. Everything is stat. If the PACS can provide images immediately throughout the enterprise, what is our customer value when our reports arrive several hours or days later?
  5. The radiology department is becoming marginalized. This observation is disturbing, as it indicates that the perceived value of the radiologist in patient management has diminished.
  6. The electronic distribution of images now gives ordering physicians greater flexibility and choice about where he or she can obtain radiology services. If your practice is not willing or able to provide the level of service desired, someone else across the street or across the state will.
  7. Clinicians want 24-hour subspecialty consultation. Their complaint has been that if teleradiology can provide images to the radiologist anywhere and anytime, why don’t radiologists provide after-hours subspecialty consultation?
  8. Office management deficiencies lower customer satisfaction. A referring physician has commented, “If I can get images immediately on my office computer in seconds, why does my staff still have to wait 20 minutes on the phone to get a study scheduled?”

All of these insights have applications to the current state of radiology, but there is one hitch: These statements were not made at RSNA, 2012, they were made during a session twelve years ago at RSNA, 2000.

The session, titled, ““Challenges to Radiology in the New Millennium” was co-moderated by Dr. Paul Chang, who wrote a summary of the meeting for RadioGraphics, the RSNA journal of continuing education in radiology.

What this summary says is that in many cases, we have been very good about kicking our problems down the street. In our defense, it should be mentioned that some of the discussion was over the end of the film era, which no one lamented. But other than improvements in the physical distribution of images, can we really state that we have met or are even striving to meet the biggest challenge of our profession?

That challenge, hinted at in point no. 5, is maintaining our relevancy. Medical imaging has been at a relevancy crossroads for several years now. And while some radiologists understand the need for a higher medical profile with both physicians and patients, too many others are still content with the”read and report.” status quo.

The winners in radiology in 2013 will be those who are proactive in relationship management; those who are willing to stand front and center with patients and referrers and can subtly but effectively show them why they still matter.

Without an increase in that style of radiologist, we can expect the medical imaging business we deserve.


Steve SmithWith over 25 years of marketing experience — nine years as a former Vice President of Marketing for a leading healthcare marketing company — Steve Smith has consistently developed effective strategies to help fuel the growth of countless healthcare enterprises. Since 2007, he has specialized as a marketing and business development consultant to medical imaging facilities nationwide. Mr. Smith has been a featured speaker at imaging conferences and is a former member of the marketing subcommittee of the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA). He has contributed marketing articles to numerous healthcare publications, including Physician’s Money Digest, Radiology Business Journal and more. Mr. Smith is the creator of “Ten Seconds to Great Customer Service™,” a medical imaging training program that provides easy-to-use tactical customer service support to staff.