Giving Voice to Our Patients’ Concerns

This post was contributed by Geraldine B. McGinty, MD, MBA, FACR, vice chair of the American College of Radiology Board of Chancellors.

Dr.McGinty(updated)A giant upside of making radiology care more patient-centered is that patients more easily understand why the American College of Radiology takes some of the stands it does on Capitol Hill and in state houses nationwide. This is tremendous help not only to patient care, but to health care reform overall.

For instance, more than 80 patient groups and minority health care advocates stood alongside the American College of Radiology to tell CMS to abandon reimbursement cuts to low-dose CT lung cancer screening. Prominent colorectal cancer care advocacy groups recently joined the ACR in calling on Medicare to cover CT colonography.

You will hear more next week about a coalition of patient groups and minority advocates joining forces to urge Congress to extend mandatory insurance coverage for women 40 and older who want annual mammograms.

As radiologists become more visible to patients, this helps our efforts to educate lawmakers, insurers and other decision makers on how the actions they take (or don’t take) affect their constituencies. This is a significant step forward radiology and those we serve.

Why else is being more visible to patients important? What steps have you taken to work with patients or patient groups?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and join the discussion on Engage (login required).

Be the Local “Voice of Radiology”

This post was contributed by Geraldine B. McGinty, MD, MBA, FACR, vice chair of the American College of Radiology Board of Chancellors.

Dr.McGinty(updated)ACR chair James A. Brink, MD, FACR, is the featured expert in a recent Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ) article on (ahem) male genital radiation protection during X-rays and other instances where radiation may be encountered. While the article’s title (“Why Doesn’t the Doctor Protect My Junk During an X-Ray?”) and its tongue-in-cheek style gained some equally humorous Twitter responses, it is a positive (if not colorful) example of a radiologist “being the voice of radiology.”

I sometimes hear radiologists say that they didn’t like the way the specialty is portrayed on a TV show or don’t like descriptions or conclusions regarding a radiology subject in their local newspaper. But, I wonder how many of us realize that this is something we can help address in our communities — if we’re willing to do it.

If interested, I would urge you to let your facility or health system media relations or marketing/public relations staff know that you are willing to do interviews when your local media need an expert to comment on medical imaging or radiation oncology issues. This helps cement our specialty’s role and reputation as the recognized experts in our area of medicine. It also helps ensure that correct information gets out there – so patients don’t make counterproductive health care decisions based on faulty information.

In addition to your local PR support, the ACR can help. If you have an interview coming up that you would like help in preparing for, the ACR media relations staff (PR@acr.org) can often provide talking points (for major/common radiology issues) or, if time, even connect you with another ACR expert who can help clarify the ACR position or answer specific medical or guideline related questions.

Our voice is loudest when we speak as one voice, but first we must actually speak out.

I would invite those who do media interviews to provide any tips that you might have for others. I would also like to hear why you think being the voice of radiology in our communities is so vital. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and join the discussion on Engage (login required).

The Broader Issue of Quality

This post was contributed by Seth Hardy, MD, member of the ACR Commission on Economics.

hardy_seth_92016_cropI recently joined a friend, who is also a board member of a hospital where I was on staff for seven years, for dinner.  This hospital is a typical community hospital in a small city; it enjoys a local monopoly as they are the only civilian hospital in the city and have little competition in the county.  My friend shared a concern regarding “the focus at board meetings on the publicly reported quality metrics and those needed for reimbursement, not the broader issue of quality.”  As quality is one of the four competitive priorities discussed previously, let’s consider its importance at a community hospital.

Quality is perhaps the most important competitive priority in a community hospital, as it is the one over which a hospital has the most control. Its impact, when proactively appreciated, extends beyond setting the base threshold for payment by insurance companies.

Quality can also be a strong source of innovation and shape a self-informed, sustainable culture.  Like ethical behavior, quality can establish a behavioral expectation, one set by top leadership and perpetually reinforced throughout a system.

A board or CEO cannot expect staff to deliver quality care or innovate when he or she does not set a high standard.  Hospital leaders must know what quality looks like, both in theory and as manifest within their institution, in order to communicate this priority.  Unfortunately, knowledge of quality may be a major blind spot among hospital leaders today who frequently do not possess a strong diverse clinical background.

Of all the medical specialties, radiology and its clinical internship, orient providers with a strong, diverse clinical experience.  Our training travels from obstetrics to the critically ill nonagenarian and from ER to OR.  Unlike many hospital administrators today, we know where poor quality lurks at our institutions.

Through the lens of our specialty, we can perceive quality as the absence of patients bouncing back to our CT and MRI scanners.  We also know how to leverage technology and information systems to improve quality and to innovate.

Sharing that knowledge, and working within a culture that champions it at a high level, is critical to the competitive ability of our partner hospitals and sustainability of our practices.