Radiologists Are Essential

The following post was contributed by Kevin M. Rice, MD, a radiologist in Los Angeles, Calif.

Rice_Kevin_edWhat happens if you type in the Google search box: “radiologists are …”? Chances are you may see something like the below screenshot. Wouldn’t you prefer to see: “radiologists are essential”?

We are the only physicians specially trained in patient diagnosis and care through medical imaging. We save lives and health care dollars by detecting diseases early and pinpointing effective treatment for cancer, heart disease and many other diseases. As radiologists, we are a crucial part of the delivery of patient-centered heath care, and we need to be proactive in relaying this truth.

If we stay in our reading rooms glued to our monitors, others will write our narrative. And, we may not like the story that they are telling.

So, what can we do to inform others about our vital role as radiologists?Essential_ed

Ask yourself the following.

  • Are you a valued as an essential member of the health care team? Or, do you show up hours or later just to provide a perfunctory entry into the medical record?
  • Are your reports succinct and actionable? Or, are they so full of hedges they are rendered meaningless?
  • Are you engaged in the medical staff affairs of the hospitals or health care plans you service? Or, are you on the sidelines letting the decisions that affect you and your patients be made without any radiology input?
  • Are you interacting with your patients in a consequential way? Or, are you invisible to your patients?

If you need help, the American College of Radiology (ACR) provides numerous resources (covering, for example, Imaging 3.0, the Radiology Support, Communication and Alignment Network (R-SCAN) and patient- and family-centered care) to help us take a leadership role in shaping America’s future health care system.

What are you doing in your practice as a radiologist to be certain you are considered essential?

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


19 thoughts on “Radiologists Are Essential

  1. Radiologists ARE absolutely essential to providing quality care to our patients. We have the ability to not only direct patient centered care but limit unnecessary medical spending. We need to remain vocal and active in our profession and advocate for what is right for our patients and community. #RadsHaveAFace

  2. I agree that we need to engage in meaningful ways & demonstrate that our expertise makes a difference in our patients’ lives. Yes, we need to be visible to both patient & their provider, not shy away from taking leadership roles in the medical community & we need to leave a lasting impression on medical students &other trainees who will be our future colleagues about the vital role of a radiologist in patient care.

  3. Radiologists are essential. Radiology’s role has only expanded in recent decades but has been hidden from clinicians’ view with the development of PACS and EMRs. Radiologists must reaffirm their vital role by meeting with other doctors wherever their clinical decision-making occurs (e.g., in real-time on the wards vs. in multi-disciplinary conferences) thereby “bringing the reading room” to them.

    • Phillip, you are right. Thanks to PACS and EMR radiologists can get a lot of work done without actually talking to anyone. We have to be careful or radiologists will be commoditized and/or replaced by machines. Professionals will add value to the product rather than just generating a report.

  4. Radiologists are most definitely essential and are an underutilized asset as consultants in patient care #radshaveaface #imaging3

  5. Great questions posed by Dr. Rice that we should all ask ourselves. We need to aggressively address the issue that we are not just an ancillary service but rather an essential part of the healthcare team. Rads cannot shy away from arenas where there is shared decision making. We need to engage the patient, the provider, the medical community, future colleagues (current trainees) and the public through education, leadership and our presence- social media or otherwise!

    • Excellent point by Shadi: There needs to be more radiology exposure (pun intended) for medical students. This is important to get medical students interested in Radiology as a career; or if they do not go into radiology, help understand the essential role radiologists play in the diagnosis, care, and treatment of their patients.

  6. Radiologists do and will continue to have a pivotal role in healthcare. The questions posed by Dr Rice are extremely relevant on everyday work and will serve to guide adaptation and innovation in patient centered radiology. We do have a long way to go, but patients certainly are waking up and embracing this approach. Gray areas in medicolegal implications remain to be addressed. Also, Academic Radiology and Community Radiology present different challenges and need to be explored.

  7. Invisibility may be the path of least resistance, but it feeds the unpleasant stereotype of the comfortable and generally irrelevant, replaceable radiologist. Radiologists are essential, so long as we maintain our roles as clinicians, team leaders and patient advocates. Reporting time pressures certainly pose a challenge, but often enough it need not take long to make an impact. Face your patient. Sit with them. And just for five minutes, talk as if you have all the time in the world.

  8. I believe it is crucial for radiologists to be very welcoming when we have clinicians visit us in our department seeking help. It is through positive experiences, that relationships develop and that positive feedback reinforces further visits. Radiologists must be the path of least resistance to answers for clinicians’ questions and requests for advice in further evaluation/management. Also, one of the biggest take home points I got from AIRP is that with regard to tumor care, radiologists and pathologists must always be in communication (not just in tumor board). Features in findings for both specialities can be ambiguous and lack of communication can lead to wrong diagnoses and wrong treatment. Radiologists and pathologists can veto items on each other’s differentials. Also as has been said above, radiologists must be open to answer patient questions about imaging findings. This is a great way for us to be a resource for clinicians that may not always be comfortable with how to manage radiologic findings and ultimately will lead to more appropriate clinical care. Radiologists also must take part in administrative level conversations at the hospital and health care system level. Without representation at that level, others that do not understand the intricacies of our practice will make decisions for us, which will inherently be subpar compared to solutions with our input.

  9. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to ensure we have a seat at the table, are visible, and are actively participating in roles of leadership that extend beyond radiology. But I also believe for our profession to truly thrive, we need Radiologists who are excellent at image interpretation, performing procedures, essentially sticking to the crux of Radiology. They really are the backbone of our profession. However, having both types of radiologists in a practice or institution is what ensures the pinnacle of efficiency and success, and is what takes our profession to the next level in medicine.

  10. Yes i agree radiologist r essental for diagnosis. We should interact with physcian & give meaningful diagnosis so that physcian should depend on us.

  11. Radiologists “see” the pain. They are the next best thing to God when it comes to relieving parents (and patients) of the anxiety related to not knowing. Just hearing something positive on why, somehow helps them cope with getting on with it. Radiologists are ultimately consultants, working with other physicians to assist in diagnosis by “seeing” inside to provide a better picture to follow.

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