A radiologist may know their equipment like the back of their hand, but unless they understand a positive patient experience, they will never be able to provide the highest quality care. This was the message that industry experts brought to the Quality Improvement Symposium at RSNA 2016. The speakers made it clear that a patient-centered experience adds significant value to radiology care. Quality management in radiology is about more than getting an accurate scan; it’s about providers and radiologists working closely with families and individuals to ensure they are well informed about costs and the purposes of procedures. When radiologists start to see things from a patient’s perspective, they can provide higher quality, more personalized care.
Quality improvement in radiology has gone through several eras in the last century. Up until the early 1970’s, it was impossible for doctors to access vast amounts clinical data in a matter of seconds, so there was more room for subjectivity in radiology. Patients trusted doctor’s opinions as facts, and this led to inconsistent diagnoses and unorganized quality control. In the past 20 years of radiology advances, things have become more fast-paced, systematized, and data-driven. Many of today’s radiologists wonder where there could be room for quality improvement, when everything seems to operate by the book. The radiology experts at RSNA made it clear that individualized care is an important next step for quality improvements in the field. The more a patient feels like their radiologist is speaking directly to them, the better their experience will be.
Patients are beginning to expect more from their radiology care, but what they actually want may surprise radiologists. A radiology experience can feel overwhelming, and intimidating, in addition to being costly to a patient, so it’s up to radiologists to provide helpful knowledge, a comfortable environment, and value in their services. Getting patients involved in decision making (without sacrificing the expertise of a radiologist) adds value to a process that often feels impersonal. In the future, patients will expect even more personalized care — something that an ever-increasing amount of data and knowledgeable radiologists will provide. If there’s one thing radiologists can do today to improve the quality of their care, it is to imagine how they would feel undergoing a scan at their clinic. Stepping into the patient’s shoes can provide valuable insights for improvement.