Work with Patients and Families to Make Radiology Better


Donna Adams

This post contributed by patient/family advisor Donna Adams, Augusta, GA.

I recently spoke at ACR 2016 – The Crossroads of Radiology®. To the knowledge of all involved, I was the first patient to speak at an ACR annual meeting. I am told that my appearance reflects a sea of change in the way radiologists interact with patients and how they are working to make radiology more patient- and family-centered. I expect this is true and hope the insights below can help radiology and patients move forward together.

People need to feel valued.

All of us are people and, at one point or another, we are all patients or family members of patients. We want to feel we are equal partners in what happens to us — in the care that we or our loved ones receive.

Patients and families want radiologist contact.

I know radiologists don’t always have the opportunity to interact directly with patients. However, when practical, patients and their family members would like to hear from the radiologist why he or she diagnosed them with a condition or injury and review with them the films or scans to provide the visual explanation for the findings.

Meet with your patients and their families.

Where possible, I strongly urge you to provide patients/families with as much information about your diagnosis as possible and engage them in a conversation regarding your findings. Many people will not ask questions, not because they don’t have any, but rather because they aren’t able to necessarily form their thoughts. Many of their concerns might be emotionally charged resulting in their hesitancy to ask questions. I recommend health professionals lead conversations by asking open-ended questions such as “What concerns you the most about the findings?” This will then give the provider a starting place from which to teach.

Involve patients/families in planning.

In my area, the hospital is involving patients and family members in the planning for and design of new hospital (imaging) facilities. Patient and family advisors, like me, also help inform them how their workflow and operating procedures can be more patient- and family-centered.

Talk to your patients/families to get started.

If you are unsure how to start getting patients involved — talk to them. Ask patients and their family about their experience — if they felt valued as individuals; what they liked; what they felt could be improved; and their recommendations for change. Concern for people’s experiences under your care shows them they are valued. This culture-of-care is what drew most of the advisors at our facility to become advisors. It goes without saying that it is good medical and business practice to establish and strengthen relationships with those you serve.

The ACR has started a Commission on Patient- and Family-Centered Care chaired by James Rawson, MD, FACR, who practices in Augusta, GA. I, and other patients, serve on that commission. We look forward to helping radiologists and allied professionals work with patients to make radiology better for all of us. The Patient- and Family-Centered Care Resources section on has more information to help this process.

If you feel like sharing, I would ask that you provide in the comments section below any steps that your practice has taken to institute a culture of being patient and family centered. This kind of idea exchange helps us all.

3 thoughts on “Work with Patients and Families to Make Radiology Better

  1. Very proud that partnering with patients/families continues to change the face of healthcare. We are all in this together.

  2. Radiology & imaging is like “Virtual Reality.”
    Imagine: if someone has x-ray / ultrasound / MRI vision and he or she is able to tell a child that, the child is hiding a candy in closed hands! Voila! Magic isn’t it?

    Radiologists are in such a “unique position to see what untrained eyes may not be able to see.” There are grey areas in any field.

    So, with privileged information, Radiologists may engage more with patients, their families for better Radiology practice and healthcare.

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