Communication: Meeting Patients Face-to-Face

The following post was contributed by guest blogger Amy Kotsenas, MD, neuroradiologist at the Mayo Clinic.  

At my institution, we have been putting radiology reports into our online patient portal for about two years and we are preparing to make images available with those reports in the portal. We make our pager numbers available in the report and have been taking phone calls from patients since reports started going into the patient portal.  With these changes, we have experienced more patients requesting consultations with the interpreting radiologist.

In a recent New York Times article, Drs. Jennifer Kemp and Geraldine McGinty highlight their experiences with direct communication of results to patients by radiologists. The day following publication of this article was a busy one for me with a full exam schedule and a few administrative meetings.  So when our patient experience representative paged me, I responded with some trepidation. She told me she had a patient requesting a radiologist consult with questions about her brain MRI that her neurologist was unable to answer. We arranged to meet that afternoon in one of the patient consultation rooms to review the images.

The patient was extremely well informed. She had done extensive research about the brain imaging sequences and had examples of normal and abnormal cases on her smart phone to illustrate her concerns. She actually knew as much about the imaging technique as some of my junior residents!

At the end of the conversation, my patient told me she had been asking to have someone review her brain imaging at outside facilities for several months without success and that she was grateful that someone had finally taken the time to review her images with her.  It was a pleasure to speak with her and ease her concerns about the exam findings. Moreover, instead of feeling like a drain on my time, the meeting energized me for the rest of the day.

I encourage you to come out of your dark reading room and speak to patients. They are very appreciative and it serves as an opportunity to remind us that they are at the heart of what we do.

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