The following post was contributed by Sabiha Raoof, MD, FCCP.
As Chair of Radiology at Jamaica and Flushing hospitals in Queens, NY, my job was—or so I thought—only to ensure that my departments provided the best care for our patients. When patient satisfaction issues pertaining to the inpatient floors were discussed in meetings, I didn’t see them as relevant to me. It wasn’t until I was on the other side of the fence that I realized I needed to do more.
In 2006, it was time to get my first screening mammogram, after which I diagnosed my own breast cancer. That was difficult enough! In the ensuing months, I realized how difficult it is to navigate the system, even for someone like me who knew what the diagnosis meant and how the system works. I cannot imagine how scary it must be for patients who know very little about their disease, their options, and how the system works. Having cancer was bad, but it motivated me to think of what I can do to help others. It gave a new meaning to my life as a physician and human being.
My treatment completed, I asked the hospital CEO if I could round on in-patients on behalf of administration. I asked the inpatients, about their issues regarding their care. Most of the issues were small things like getting an extra pillow, a different entree for lunch, or some more attention from the doctor or nurse. I could relate to these issues. I had been there not too long ago. I listened and tried to get these issues fixed and I had the support of hospital leadership
Our two hospitals are not financially well off but we make up for that by being innovative. Soon, I had three other non-clinical staff members calling me. They wanted to get involved. We came up with what we now call Making a Difference (MAD) Rounds. Senior administrators, clinical chairs, directors and managers participate. In teams of three, we go to patient floors and speak to our patients and try to make their experience in our hospital better. We have the opportunity to fix any issues while they are here and non-clinical team members get to know what it is like providing care on the floors.
As a patient, I was lucky to get the best care possible. Ultimately, however, it meant just as much to me to be viewed as a person and not as just another cancer patient. A smile, a friendly gesture, meant so much to me. We may not be able to gauge the value of our MAD rounds for statistical purposes, but I can assure you this: patients do appreciate when someone is willing to listen and help. I know, because I have been there.
We do not need life changing experiences to come up with innovative ways to get involved in patient care. As radiologists, we can do much more than just interpret images. We just need to think out of the box. Together, we can make a difference.