In today’s healthcare environment, there’s an ever-growing expectation that your contribution to patients’ clinical experiences will go beyond capturing and reading an image. Instead, it’s now largely understood you’ll play a more interactive role in their diagnostic journeys.
However, for many patients, coming to you for a diagnostic study can be unsettling. Therefore, some responsibility falls to you to alleviate their fears and provide them with a comfortable, informative interaction.
“A substantial amount of successful patient outcomes has to do with the psyche of how patients approach healthcare, how they feel during their healthcare encounters, and how they prepare themselves for the encounter,” says Ella Kazerooni, MD, interim radiology chair and associate chair for clinical affairs at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor. “It matters just as much as what they experience during the encounter and afterwards.”
With increasing workflow needs and reporting requirements, creating a relaxed atmosphere for your patients can be difficult. But, according to industry experts, you can take steps to them feel more at ease.
Why improved interaction matters
In many ways, the quality of the images you collect requires patient cooperation. If a patient is overly anxious, says Peter Curatolo, MD, director of MRI services at Lahey Health Beverly Hospital in Massachusetts, they’re less able to comply with the requirements of various modalities. For example, fear and nervousness can prevent patients from remaining still and holding their breath for an MRI scan.
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Compromised images are the result. Not only can this lead to re-scans, he said, but it can also impede your ability to provide prompt diagnoses and the highest level of care you can. You could feel a negative impact on your workflow and your bottom line, as well.
Strategies for improvement
There are several tactics you can implement to give your patients a better experience. Many times, says Andrew Rosenkrantz, MD, radiology professor and body imaging section chief at New York Univeristy Langone Health, it starts with your front staff.
“Be sure your staff know you’re providing a patient-first environment and that you offer training so they are oriented toward patient customer service,” he says. “They must be caring, kind, and considerate in their interactions.”
NYU also strives to give patients access to everyone involved with the care process. At the time an appointment is scheduled, patients receive a card with the names and job titles of everyone involved, including the receptionist, technologist, nurse, and radiologist. The card also provides instructions on how to offer feedback on the clinical experience. The department uses the feedback to make any necessary changes.
Kazerooni also suggests including a timeline for when study results will be available. Doing so manages patient expectations and helps prevent frustration.
Additionally, giving patients an avenue to express their feelings can also improve their experience and augment your interactions, she says. Michigan Medicine gives radiology patients a notebook in the waiting room to write in, expressing their emotions before appointments.
“Patients write whatever they’re feeling that day—their anxieties, their concerns, what brings them to the office,” Kazerooni says. “It’s a living book. Our patients can read what others are experiencing. It resonates with them that they’re not going through the experience alone.”