Advice For Staying Focused on Care

May 26, 2011

As imagers, our patients are not present in front of us, and that sometimes challenges us to remain care focused. Especially when it is busy.

Friday afternoon I was thinking about working my way through the work list and heading home. It is at times when I am busy and time pressed that it is easy to lack focus. What focus? Focus on patient care. As imagers, our patients are not present in front of us, and that sometimes challenges us to remain care focused. Especially when it is busy.

A few points have helped me remember to be patient focused and directed. Remember to be both meticulous and methodical. This will impress your referring MDs and help to avoid errors of omission. Along the same lines, strive for consistency. That is, make your reports reproducible in order. Clinicians and staff will appreciate this if they need specific information as they will know where to find it. For you, this will again help to ensure there are no omissions in your review.

Beyond the care we take in producing our reports, be mindful of patient, referring physician and imaging centers needs. Patient focused care implies that we are looking out for our patients.

Make an effort to call clinicians for results that impact care routinely, not just for urgent medical matters. This may be more imperative at end of day or week when the lack of communication may further delay care. Be flexible with your imaging partners to maximize access to patient care at late hours. This is best done by opening a dialogue with them. Too often radiologists try to “put their foot down” forcefully so as to avoid late evening covering contrast or call reports. Rather than being demonstrative, be constructive. Most imaging partners understand that the radiologists have needs. They just don’t want it to be a one way street. So ask if there are times they need more coverage to accommodate patients late in the day. Perhaps radiologist coverage hours can be slid toward this at some times, starting later and ending later, if there are trends that indicate such a need. Be willing to try such arrangements and your imaging partner will be more willing to accommodate you too.

Try to be available to patients when needed. Not just for contrast coverage and reactions, but for patient questions. Radiologists are sometimes hesitant to be so available either due to time constraints or concerns about overstepping clinical bounds. In most cases, patients are sensitive to redirection if the radiologist is not the right person to ask. Generally, they have been under informed about their care. You can play exceptional role in helping bridge the information gap by simply explaining your role and the role of their study in their care in a general way if you can’t answer their specific question. But don’t hesitate to tell them clinical decisions may require communication with their ordering or other physician.

Lastly, remember that the technologist and you are a team, trying to make the patient’s experience ideal. Encourage them to ask you questions. Check with them during the day to proactively address questions.

All of these efforts are for one purpose: To make the patient’s experience in your radiology department exceptional. Remember that at all times and your patients experience will be superior.