Patient expectations have changed. Rising healthcare costs are driving patients to demand more information when confronted with a medical issue, and technology is empowering them with access to that information. Today, radiologists are much more likely to interact directly with patients, where previously clinicians mediated imaging reports.
More than half of patients who have online access to radiological reports read them and want to discuss the results with their radiologist, according to a study published online in Academic Radiology. Study senior author Dr. Christoph Lee of the University of Washington, told AuntMinnie.com, “When patients have open access to their reports—sometimes even before their referring physicians—they’re going to have many more questions. This shift will push us to make our reporting patient-centered, through language that laypeople can understand.”
Radiologists and clinicians must partner to find ways to open lines of communication and to provide diagnostic reports to people without medical degrees.
Changing radiologists’ roles
The more serious the prognosis, the more likely that a patient or family member will pursue a deeper understanding of diagnoses to assess potential alternatives and treatments. The emerging role of radiologists is to anticipate patient and clinician needs, and recommend approaches that will not only allow the imaging specialist to interpret scans, but will assist everyone involved in the diagnostic process and the decision tree.
For example, based on presented symptoms a 2D CT or MRI image may be sufficient for an experienced radiologist to make a definitive interpretation. However, that same image might provide little insight for the average patient or family member in crisis mode.
Looking at a specific patient population, such as people with congenital heart disease, a 3D volume or cinematic rendering may provide a lot more value for the patient—or attending clinicians—than standard 2D images.
The path to a high value, low cost, precise diagnosis is no longer served by radiologists just cranking out volumes of studies and images. We must anticipate the best way to manage each patient and each clinician.
The value of patient-centered imaging
Through patient-centered imaging, we evaluate each patient, and consider the most appropriate approach to fit the circumstances—selecting the optimal modality, protocol, or post-processing techniques. With the flexibility to modify or customize our imaging to each situation, we can pursue the best value for each patient while answering clinical questions most efficiently and cost-effectively.
Educating patients improves care
With greater understanding of what the radiologist sees, a patient can better follow the doctor’s decision-making process, and make more educated choices. Engagement provides patients and their families peace of mind. Further, patients who recognize the implications of their imaging results demonstrate better adherence to therapy and follow-up.
To promote patient-centered imaging, the American College of Radiology (ACR) has developed Appropriateness Criteria® (AC)—guidelines for both radiologists and non-radiologists to determine the most appropriate imaging or treatment decision for a specific clinical condition. The ACR AC is an essential tool for helping determine the optimal imaging protocol for individual patients.
Peter Verhey, MD, MS, DABR®, is Clinical Chief, Cardiothoracic Radiology at vRad, and Associate Professor at University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. Of Reno, he says, “There’s nowhere else I’d rather live and raise my family. … I live and work in a veritable paradise.”