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How Radiologists Can Improve Communication with Referrers

How Radiologists Can Improve Communication with Referrers

This is the first of a two-part series on improving communications. Next week, we'll explore how radiologists can better connect with radiologic technologists.

Communication. It’s been a big topic of conversation in the radiology industry, both at national meetings and inside individual practices. There’s a distinct need to improve the way radiologists and referring physicians talk to each other. The sticking point, however, has been how to do it.

There’s no question, though, the specialty needs to implement effective strategies to make communication faster, easier, and more effective. With more than 70 percent of referring physicians sending their patients to multiple facilities for imaging studies, according to one national study, it’s incumbent upon radiologists to make these working relationships as worry-free and attractive as possible, industry experts said.

“The overall effectiveness of an organization is highly dependent upon the radiology department’s ability to provide top-notch service to referring physicians, and streamlined communication is a very important piece of that puzzle,” said Mats Björnemo, director of radiology IT product marketing at Sectra, a Sweden-based radiology consulting firm. “Radiology lies at the very center of the healthcare chain. Most patients pass through an imaging department at one point or another in their treatment.”

Not only does this fluid information transfer allow for immediate input from radiologists, potentially staving off any inappropriate or repeat testing, but it also ensures patients experience fewer — if any — delays in care. In addition, these processes help radiologists quickly share any critical findings, as well as play an active role in multi-disciplinary discussions, Björnemo said.

Why Improve Communication?

While many industry leaders promote better communication as a way to raise your department’s profile within a health system or demonstrate the impact you make as radiologists, there are other reasons behind fine-tuning the way you connect with referring physicians.

According to an October 2012 Sectra report, doctors have a great interest in being able to access your schedule and book appointments for their patients online. But only 7 percent of surveyed physicians indicate the radiologists to whom they refer have web scheduling as an option. Many physicians included in the report consider offering this capability is vital to completing time-sensitive scans.

That doesn’t mean referring physicians want to eliminate all face-to-face or phone contact with you,  Björnemo said. This is where the pendulum that has lurched toward teleradiology in recent years is beginning to swing back toward having in-house radiology staff. When reviewing results, physicians want — and appreciate — being able to ask questions and talk with you directly.

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