Judgement Day for Radiologists
Why Its Crucial for Radiologists to Put Themselves Out There
Radiologists represent one of medicine’s least acknowledged but most important medical specialties in terms of the value they are able to add to patient care and health outcomes. Radiologists are often the ‘behind the scenes’ doctors who have a pivotal role in patient care, utilizing their general clinical and specialist radiological knowledge and skills in order to provide expert care for patients referred to them, whether it is for diagnostic tests or treatment.
Radiology has been a distinct medical specialty with unique technical challenges from its inception. It is now the key diagnostic tool for many diseases and has a vital role in monitoring treatment and predicting outcome.
Yet, a 2009 survey of outpatients found that only 65% of patients understood that radiologists were part of their medical team, whereas 35% failed to recognize that radiologists were part of their medical team . Radiologists are also often, incorrectly, considered to be doctors who work under or follow instructions of clinicians. One of the many causes is the PACS which, despite its many benefits, has hurt radiologist-referrer communication, decreased radiologist visibility, and eroded referrers’ perceptions of radiologist expertise.
This comes as the demand for healthcare increases due to the aging population, and more chronic diseases as well as more treatable diseases cropping up. Patients are also decidedly taking an increasing role in directing their own healthcare. With technological advances in healthcare, telecommunications and IT assuming an increasing role, radiologists must preserve and enhance their value.
Radiologists at the Temple University Hospital have taken a step in the right direction. When a patient warrants a procedure from the interventional radiology division, the requesting physician places an “interventional radiology consult”. The consult request is then forwarded to the interventional radiology division, where it is reviewed by a radiologist, who can choose to approve or reject the request on the basis of patient evaluation. This change in workflow solidifies that perception of a true clinical service that must be consulted. It benefits all parties by increasing physician-to-physician communication between services, thereby increasing visibility of the service. 
Radiology and radiologists are central to patient care, especially in the wake of the revolution of sorts created by Imaging 3.0.
The time has thus come for radiologists to rethink their roles in health care delivery. Diagnostic radiologists must be proactive by participating in multidisciplinary tumor boards, creating patient consultation clinics, reporting results directly to patients, re-envisioning radiology reports, and embedding reading rooms into clinics. These actions taken together, along with how radiologists refer to themselves and their value, will have a positive impact in changing perceptions.
- Dr. Gupta, Sonia, Dr. Patel, Tirath. Radiologists Should Not Be “Ordered” Around. Journal of the American College of Radiology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jacr.2017.05.022
- Dr. Gassert, G, Dr. Durham, Dr. J, Dr. Cain, M,Dr. Sachs, P.B. Interventional radiology workflow management in the electronic medical record. J Digit Imaging. 2014;27:314–320.
- Dr. Grant, L, Dr. Griffin, N, Dr. McDonald, S. et al, The role of a consultant radiologist — are patients still in the dark?. Eur Radiol. 2009;19:2326–2332.
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