Building a Good Relationship with Your Facility

October 3, 2011

Radiologists need a great working relationship with their facilities. But all too often this relationship, in practice, is adversarial at times. So, how do you build a good relationship? Here are a few steps to keep in mind, even when you may feel at odds with the facility.

Radiologists need a great working relationship with their facilities. On one level, this may seem pretty obvious to most of us. Of course, you want to be a good partner with the facility side. They drive business to you and usually provide much of the resources you use to do your job, from imaging equipment to scheduling to computers and PACS. 

But all too often this relationship, in practice, is adversarial at times. The facility may want you to do things at times that are not convenient or conventional. You may not agree with them on case management issues. Ultimately, though, the relationships with the facility are critical.

So, how do you build a good relationship? There are a few steps to keep in mind, even when you may feel at odds with the facility:

1. Help to manage customer service. I don’t resist talking to customers, be they referring physicians or patients. I encourage it. The customer loves getting to talk to the radiologist easily. Examples are as simple as talking to someone about a confusing order, or offering to speak to a dissatisfied customer. The facility managers will like that on a couple levels. It may drive business to them. It will reduce administrative work for them. When the radiologist is not involved, or resists involvement, it means more phone calls and more labor.

2. Be available, but not taken advantage of. This is a common issue for me. I have found that the facility wants to clarify when you can be available, not abuse your time. Set expectations properly and no one will be at odds. The facility may ask for extra coverage sometimes, and giving it to them sometimes is a good idea. But if you always give it to them, then that becomes the de facto coverage. If additional coverage is a one-time occurrence on my end, I tell them that, so that the coverage times remain clearly defined - and no one is mad the next time if I can’t help out.

3. Help with marketing. Believe it or not, customers think of radiology services as being in our hands, even though the facilities are usually not ours. So those customers like to see and know us. You can help with marketing at an open house, by offering to meet with referring physicians or providing content for brochures, websites or other media. Both you and the facility gain from that.

4. Be proactive about quality. In my experience, this has created more tension with facility side staff than anything. So, it has to be handled delicately. We all get frustrated with pool quality work. Make sure there is a feedback quality system in place and be involved in its development and updating. Be active in quality management. Comment regularly, for both good and poor quality. Make critical comments constructive. Consider verbal communication with a tech for a quality issue, before written or supervisor communication. Ask to see statistics and evaluations regularly and try to help with improving quality. The facility usually wants to be of the highest quality, to both do their job well, and to be able to tell customers about it.

5. Help develop policies and protocols. You’re going to need those policies so be part of developing them. They can be time consuming but you would rather be able to operate with some policy you developed and agree on. Moreover, the facility needs these to operate efficiently and effectively. This is a chance for you to show your expertise and provide value to the facility. They will welcome it. Likewise with protocols. Just showing up and reading won’t make you or the facility manager happy. Update the protocols and let them know when something is not ideal.

6. Do more than your competitors. For many facilities, especially outpatient, there may be more than one group reading. So you need to stand out. Instead of only doing what others do, do more. Be the leader in setting policy, marketing and customer service and you will be rewarded with a stellar working relationship.