What Administrators Want Radiologists to Know

June 23, 2016

Working together to strengthen the radiologist-administrator relationship.

As tensions run high to increase the quality of services radiology provides to its patients, administrators and head radiologists are being asked to tap into their “soft” skill sets to collaborate, communicate, and engage more effectively with one another in order to reach the highest levels of value-based success.

Whether a director, manager, or clinical supervisor, the role of administrator has always had accountability to collaborate outward while engaging physicians, staff, and patients alike. Effectively communicating is at the very heart of the job. Rarely is this a mutual expectation for head radiologists- chief, chairperson, medical director - who are more closely connected to other physician services than to the administration. A culture resulting in two distinct sides with different expectations.

But the silo days of radiology leadership are over and head radiologists can benefit from using the administrator’s experience to foster stronger human connections of engagement and collaboration.

Administrators want this to happen. In a recent QuickPoll conducted for Diagnostic Imaging by The Marketech Group, only half of the 239 administrators agreed with their head radiologists on how their department should run. The key cited differences being in the way they collaborated on process improvement, teamwork, and change management. And better communication from their head radiologists was the number one area administrators wished they could improve.

Here are some valuable insights that administrators wish their head radiologists knew.

Administrators need you to “buy in” first to sell business later. Believe in administrators and their role. Plain and simple. Regardless of background, most administrators these days are overqualified with more suffixes behind their name than the page is wide. While that certainly doesn’t guarantee stylistic compatibility, the minute that an administrator’s personal ability or role significance is questioned, especially in front of staff or fellow docs, the starting gate toward open communication and collaboration is shut down and walls go up. Efforts turn from expanding opportunities to the narrow focus of damage control. The “grapevine effect” of sharing negative feedback with multiple individuals rather than complaining directly to the administrator is a natural occurrence that can happen anywhere. But this is wasted time that could be spent building up the business both internally and externally. Trust that a certain amount of good faith on the front end will reap mutual rewards downstream.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"49689","attributes":{"alt":"Radiology-administrator relationships","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_6253149225457","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"6027","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 172px; width: 200px; float: right;","title":"©nasirkhan/Shutterstock.com","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

Administrators are huge fans and want to understand your perspective. More often than not, administrators arrive to their role optimistic and eager to meet their head radiologists. They might even be in awe of all they have accomplished. One sure sign that an administrator wants to embrace their radiologists is by observing them in the reading and procedure rooms. They may even take notes. They aren’t looking for something wrong or overstepping bounds. They simply want to understand how the business of radiology runs from the experts. Stefanie Manack, BS, RT(R) (M) (VI) (ARRT), CRA, from the University of Chicago Hospital, surprised her section chiefs by spending time in the reading room as a newly hired manager in interventional radiology.  Suspicion quickly turned to inclusion as Manack gained credibility and trust waiting for the right opportunities to ask intelligent questions, demonstrating desire to learn anything and everything about their workflow, and consistently committing to working alongside while learning their key pains. It didn’t take long to establish a welcome reciprocal repoire based on information sharing that opened invaluable doors down the line.

Establish a rhythm that works and stick to it. Administrators dislike being overscheduled with meetings as much as their docs, but finding an effective way to connect regularly whether it is a hallway meeting, formal sit down, or coffee chat; physical face time is crucial. Once Manack demonstrated to her section chiefs that she was “going to stick it out and see things through,” standing weekly meetings together became open and transparent with all parties contributing value to the discussions. Rarely missed, momentum quickly built as they solved issues that were important to both, including an IR scheduling overhaul, the implementation of training manuals, increased efficiencies around patient wait times, and staff lunch coverage. The impact of these efforts along with the solved pace problems proved to be highly effective in creating optimistic collaborative outlooks.

The quality of the communication matters. Administrators will often err on the side of trying too hard to connect with their head radiologist in the beginning only to be met with radio silence or cancellations due to other priorities. Whether it’s sending out meeting invites or repetitive emails, overloading the airways is rarely effective. Administrators need to communicate regularly in some way, the how and when are entirely up to their head radiologists. Establishing early on the right formula will create more intuitive, natural connections later. From a specific preferred brand of catheter to the overall vision of the practice, an open line of communication is critical. Simple communication oversights can be huge dissatisfiers and stem from assumptions. Be clear, be direct, and be open to discussing options regularly. Discussing positive outcomes as regularly as problem areas is vital. Strategizing times before the day becomes busy or during a break when both leaders can be focused, approachable, and relaxed will bear more fruit than more formal avenues.

Fostering a “we” mentality is the quickest way to increase effectiveness. Once both leaders are actively engaged and communicating regularly, the sky is the limit. Administrators know that their head radiologist has influential political power to steer other radiologists, staff, and referring physicians alike and can open new pathways of business.

Victor Gorre, MBA, RT(R)(MR)(CT), Advocate Health Care, has had a strong, collaborative partnership with his radiology chairman, Surya Nadimpalli, MD, for many years. As the director of imaging, Gorre monitors operations daily. His analysis of the department’s volumes recently revealed specific areas of weakness across certain modalities and procedure types that were underutilized or diminishing in volumes. He and Nadimpalli partnered with marketing to create communications tools to accurately display the variety of services they provided along with the credentialing and contact information of each subspecialty radiologist. Together they brought the tools to other departments throughout the hospital as well as referring offices and shared their combined knowledge to answer questions, define needs, and offer assistance to create more business. They found many referrers were welcome to using their department, they either had not known the services were available or how to schedule particular exams. “Face time was the key,” said Gorre, who rapidly increased volumes in MRI, PET, and UFE’s. And those numbers continue to grow as they become more visible.

An administrator’s vision and decision making power is tied to their system’s mission. Even the strongest of partnerships need resilience to maintain effectiveness. Don’t allow a singular failure to halt forward momentum. An administrator’s vision and their ability to sway capital, operating budget, and staffing decisions is highly dependent upon the overall mission of the system they belong to. A system that may be an entirely different entity than the one the head radiologist is a part of. Acknowledging that up front is key to preventing misunderstandings on what an administrator can and does advocate for. Improving patient safety, comfort, and exam efficiency is always powerful leverage. Prioritization of approvals at the organizational level and unexpected barriers can halt progress on the most logical of projects. Gorre and Nadimpalli, through years of collaboration and persistence, have overcome many barriers together through their collective passion to do what is clinically right for the patient. Mutually advocating for the best imaging options, the safest practices, and new clinical advancements has not only helped both of their entities build business, it has provided undisputable clinical and operational perspective with validated metrics that focuses on building strong patient experiences.

The power of two will always be greater than one. Strong radiology leadership partnerships are no different. When both leaders are approachable, see the value in working together, and make it a priority to collaborate, the possibilities are endless.