For many years now, radiologists have practiced their specialty on workstations in reading rooms, sending reports to referring physicians via email or other hospital communications systems. Unlike the days of film and light boxes, when radiologists and referring physicians would discuss patient care while viewing images, today’s radiology workflow rarely includes face-to-face meetings with other providers and almost never involves interactions with patients. This workflow, however, is increasingly under pressure to change. New research shows that in-person communications between radiologists and referring physicians improves patient care.
Study Indicates Significant Changes to Surgical Plans
A recent study, published in February 2016 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, shows that in-person communications between radiologists and acute care physicians improved patient care. For the study, researchers analyzed the results of rounds held between an acute care surgery team and abdominal radiologists. In 43 percent of these in-person meetings the acute care physicians changed their diagnosis, making significant changes in their surgical plans for the patients.
This conclusion clearly indicates that changing radiology workflow to either include face-to-face meetings or provide a way for radiologists and referring physicians to collaborate in real time will improve patient care. PACS has been a big factor in the disconnection between clinicians and radiologists. A radiologist can’t carry a PACS workstation around like they used to carry films.
To enable this change in process and communication, radiologists need enterprise image viewers so they can “bring” their images with them for viewing on a laptop, tablet or smartphone in face-to-face meetings. Enterprise image viewers also enable collaboration by allowing referring physicians and radiologists to simultaneously view and discuss an image during a phone call.
Collaboration Among Caregivers is Critical to Patient Care
The above-mentioned study also concluded that the conclusions of radiologists’ written reports differed from image readings while meeting in-person with the acute care team. These differences may have been influenced by a better understanding of the patient case on the part of the radiologist gained through their face-to-face communication with the acute care team, indicating that benefits from collaborative meetings are a two-way street that lead referring physician and radiologists to better patient care.
As renowned MIT professor, writer and cyber sociologist Sherry Turkle asserts, “The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless…Our most basic technology [is] talk.” In healthcare, supporting conversation among providers is critical to patient care.
This blog originally appeared on Calgary Scientific‘s website.