Hey, Radiologist: Call Me Maybe

This post was contributed by Zeeshaan Bhatti, MD, a radiology resident from the University of Michigan Health System.

 Radiology, Vanessa AllenAbout half of the radiology residents at our institution felt that we call our referring providers too often.

This may be due to internal and external pressures to avoid direct contact. These include the disruptive nature of phone calls, growing workload, the ambiguity regarding which test results warrant a call and the expectation that providers should follow up on studies they order. Furthermore, we may think colleagues don’t like the interruption.

However, the majority of referring resident providers we surveyed said they welcome phone calls.

  • 83 percent (125/151) hoped to get a phone call about abnormal radiology findings
  • 24 percent wanted more frequent communication
  • 66 percent felt that radiologists’ calls often or always add value beyond a radiology report
  • 3 percent felt the frequency of calls is excessive (compared to 49 percent of radiology residents)

Is there value in radiologists making these phone calls? There is if the phone calls are truly warranted and if we prioritize patient safety and our referring providers’ preferences — even when it’s not convenient.

Some considerations:

  • Making a diagnosis is part of our job. Adequately communicating it is equally significant.
  • Phone calls can be considered a normal part of our workflow (like reviewing patient charts or looking at prior studies) — not an interruption.
  • Talking to clinicians facilitates timely receipt of test results. It also allows confirmation of understanding.
  • Calls can provide information not found in the medical record. They can also convey a degree of certainty not evident in a radiology report.
  • Talking has been shown to alter clinical management compared to written radiology reports alone.

Our study, presented at ACR 2017, involved residents at an academic center. How do you think attending physicians or those in private practices would respond?

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

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