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Set Expectations Through Communication


Do you want your radiology department or practice to run to your liking? Here’s how.

Setting expectations is one of the best ways to ensure that things are done the way you like them. Too often I hear complaints about things not being done properly, or the way one radiologist likes, with no written (or even verbal) communication in advance of how they like things done. Radiologists interact with many staff members, often a large number they don’t employ themselves. So we have a particular issue with this.

So how do you avoid frustrations like this? Simple: Communicate.

Here are a couple easy tips that may get your started on the right path:

Tell them how you operate. When you first join a group, buy lunch for the staff one day and ask the manager to carve out 30 minutes to talk with them. Tell them your way of operating. How do you like to communicate: via phone, in person? Do you want staff to wait to interrupt what you are doing? Leave you a note if you are busy? When clinicians call, should they take messages for you to return, or put them right through?

Beyond this the big question is: Are you open to having them talk with you about concerns and problems? If not, you should expect to have more issues with things not being done how you like.

Be open to discussion, or tell them what you are open to discussing. I have found many techs tell me they are afraid to talk to some radiologists for fear that they will be rebuked or chastised - or because they just can't reach them. If you are someone who doesn't want to be bothered as much, then set out clear guidelines for when the techs should communicate with you. You may want to talk with your whole practice to find out how everyone operates. This can reduce friction with the technical staff, particularly if they are not your employees, since the techs want to have some consistency.

I suggest you stay open to discussion and encourage communication and questions. It may seem bothersome at times, but you'll find that the studies are done more to your liking and the techs will work more easily with you.

Give patient and regular feedback. That means regular meetings with technical staff. Arrange a lunch meeting or conference call with them every other month to discuss issues. Tell them if they are not doing things as you would expect. Clearly identify the items that need improvement. Include things that are being done right and better than before.

Focus on quality. Use existing QA tools to give feedback, but don't omit personal communication with those. If you are going to criticize, be patient and explanatory, not derogatory. When you criticize electronically, as many of us now do in our PACs or PACS/RIS interface, also give a call to the tech and explain why you are QA’ing a study. That will go a long way toward helping them to satisfy your expectations for the next case.

What do you do to make sure your staff knows your expectations?

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