The role of imaging in patient satisfaction
Where Are We Today?
Imagine this scenario: At 2 a.m., a community hospital receives a patient with a head injury related to a motor vehicle accident. The hospital performs a CT scan on the patient, but does not have a neuroradiologist available and needs specialty advice. Following the potential patient transfer protocol, the ED physician at the community hospital places a call to a tertiary care facility’s patient transport center and reaches a transport nurse.
The doctor and the nurse discuss the patient, and the transport nurse asks the ED physician to send the CT scan. The radiology technologist sends the exam from their PACS via an electronic exchange service. This task is completed within minutes and the transport nurse is notified that the exam has been sent.
The exam is automatically downloaded to the local PACS environment at the tertiary care facility, where a QC check is performed and made available to the local neuroradiologist. He views the exam and calls the community hospital ED physician to discuss the patient.
Although this example is fictitious, it illustrates an ideal imaging scenario for hospitals, emergency rooms, and specialists’ offices across the U.S. The question is, why isn’t this the norm?
Imaging Challenges Can Get in the Way of Patient Satisfaction
The traditional radiology experience places little emphasis on patient involvement.¹ Despite the best efforts to improve the patient experience, there are four reasons why imaging can get in the way of patient satisfaction.
1. Patients are couriers for imaging exams
When patients are diagnosed with a serious medical condition, the last thing they want to be responsible for is picking up a CD from their doctor to take to their specialist. Physicians should be able to show their commitment to fast, convenient, and supportive care planning by using technology to transfer images to the next appointment, not patients.
2. Patients are distracting physicians with CDs
In high-volume outpatient clinics, nearly half of the patients arrive for appointments with at least one CD of prior medical images. Specialists can spend several hours a day dealing with CDs instead of treating their patients. They also risk jeopardizing their reputation and a patient’s confidence if they are unable to open a CD or access the images. If the images are transferred electronically, physicians can review the data and care plan before the patient arrives, creating a more professional environment that focuses on the patient.
3. Preparation happens during the exam, rather than before
When patients bring CDs to their appointments, physicians waste precious time reviewing images instead of listening to their patients. Exam preparation literally happens during the exam, which can delay care delivery and create increased expenses for the patient when they are forced to schedule additional appointments. If physicians receive images prior to the exam, they can be prepared to efficiently discuss the care plan with the patient.
4. Appointments are delayed or incomplete
When patients forget their CDs, or when physicians are unable to access the images, appointments can easily extend past their allotted time. These delays cause unnecessary waiting time or even appointment rescheduling. Image sharing tools alleviate the challenges because studies are more easily transferred between facilities without patient intervention.
How Imaging Can Increase Patient Satisfaction Rather Than Derail It
Patients want to be satisfied with their healthcare experience. Physicians can increase their satisfaction by focusing on the quality of care they provide. A holistic imaging strategy brings patients and physicians together, creating a better care environment that positively impacts patients’ attitudes towards their care.
Watson Health’s interoperability solutions can help provide a holistic imaging strategy with advanced capabilities that seamlessly ingest, manage, store, view, share, and exchange imaging-related healthcare data. They can help your organization avoid the pitfalls of image sharing and keep patient care on track.
How to Prioritize Patient Satisfaction in Medical Imaging. Imaging Technology News. March 2017.