Radiologists and Social Media at the California Radiological Society

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We need to come out of the reading room – both literally and figuratively – to engage more proactively and meaningfully with referring physicians and patients. The fact is that patients will receive better care – and outcomes – with a more engaged radiologist.
— Roger Eng, MD, President, California Radiological Society

Greg MatthewsThere was an overriding theme that ran through every presentation and informal discussion at the annual meeting of the California Radiological Society. It won’t surprise you to know that the theme involved change – and there was a significant level of urgency underscoring the message. When I say it isn’t surprising, that’s because it’s well-known in radiology circles that there are broad misperceptions about what they actually do (refer to How Your Patients Really See You from - in 2010).

What most patients don’t realize is that radiologists are usually behind the scenes – completely invisible to the patient. Most of their work is done in a “reading room” that’s completely separated from the exam rooms frequented by patients. It’s quite common for the radiologist to make an analysis of the test results they’re shown, write a report for the referring physician, and send the report back – and that’s the sum total of the engagement in the process.

Yet now, more than ever, the expertise of the radiologist needs to be an integrated part of the continuum of care.  Dr. Cynthia Sherry chairs the Radiology Department at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas, and is also the Chief Medical Director for the Radiology Leadership Institute. The RLI, a program of the American College of Radiology, is designed to reshape the future of the practice of Radiology.

The old stereotype of the “disengaged radiologist” in the back room absolutely needs to change. Imaging has become such an important part of health care delivery today that virtually all patients have an imaging test of some kind. When the situation calls for it and the patient has an advanced test early in the process, they have measurably better outcomes … the radiologist needs to be more engaged, earlier in the process.
— Cynthia Sherry, MD, Medical Director, the Radiology Leadership Institute

That sentiment correlates well with a survey that was announced last week by GE Healthcare* as a part of their MIND Initiative (Making an Impact on Neurological Disorders). That survey, which focused on diagnoses of Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, was able to quantify significant advantages (financial and otherwise) to reducing delays in diagnosis.

The RLI has developed a comprehensive curriculum that is designed to equip radiologists for leadership in the evolving model for delivering healthcare in the United States. Underlying all of that leadership development is that radiologists are being trained and equipped to have a  voice – and that’s where social media begins to come into play.

For a function that’s traditionally perceived as being a part of the “back office,” a surprising number of radiologists have taken to social media as a mechanism to build those broader connections with referring physicians and patients. We’re tracking over 200 online radiologists through our  MDigitalLIfe initiative (you can find a list of them, along with other important members of the radiology community, in this twitter list).

One of the most active of them is  Garry Choy, MD, a staff radiologist at Mass General Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. He’s also the founder of a proprietary social network for radiologists called  radRounds - that now has over 12,000 members from around the world.

But Garry is also a huge proponent of Twitter – and when I asked him why, his response was, “because it saves me so much time.” Yes, you read that right. Since most non-Twitter-users seem to think of it as a huge time-suck, I was a little surprised myself. So I asked him to elaborate.

“As a radiologist, it’s critically important for me to be connected to all of the latest advancements in process and technology as it relates to medicine. The people I follow on Twitter act as a human filter for the best information. It also allows me to access the top experts in the world, in real time, when I have a question.”
—Garry Choy, MD – Mass General Hospital’s Division of Emergency Radiology and Teleradiology

The reason for my attendance at last weekend’s CRS meeting was to introduce the use of