Patient-Centered Radiology Requires Facing Patients

DebenedectisThis post was contributed by Carolynn DeBenedectis, MD, a breast imaging specialist and residency program director at UMass Memorial

Sometimes in medicine, radiologists are the first physicians to give a patient a life-changing diagnosis. Recently, I had a patient who came in with a palpable mass in her breast. I was the first physician to tell her this was likely breast cancer and to walk her though all the next steps. I went on to read her breast MRI, discuss the results with her and then perform her MR-guided biopsy. Eventually, I was the person who did her needle localization and sentinel node injection for lumpectomy. It was only later that this patient told me that I — at the most difficult part of her diagnosis, amidst the initial shock and uncertainty — was the physician she had the most contact with and the information I provided made those initial weeks less scary. When you, as a radiologist, are the first physician to help your patient through a life-altering diagnosis, it’s critical to be an effective communicator.

Involving patients and families in their care isn’t only the right thing for radiologists to do, but research has shown that it also improves patient outcomes. Radiologists can and should be available to discuss imaging findings with patients and answer their questions, along with primary care physicians. We can also help coordinate next steps in a care pathway and leverage existing and new technologies to communicate with other physicians and patients. Unfortunately, these critical aspects of patient care are often not addressed in clinical education.

These are just some of the many reasons why, in June, the ACR Patient- and Family-Centered Care (PFCC) Committee on Education launched the new ACR Communication Curriculum for Radiology Residents. This free and interactive resource for residency training programs is customizable and centered on best practices for communications with patients, families and physicians. The curriculum can be incorporated as early as first-year and contains on-demand training modules, patient/doctor simulations, skills assessments and sample case study communication. It also enables residency programs to meet ACGME requirements for resident communication training.

It was an honor to collaborate with my colleagues David Sarkany, MD, and Priscilla Slanetz, MD, and a panel of other experts, to create this much-needed resource for residencies nationwide. It’s our hope that residency programs will leverage this ready-to-use content to provide training that best meets their program’s needs ― training that they may not have otherwise had the resources to provide.

We’ve already heard from several residency program directors and chief residents that this curriculum is making a difference. We hope that you’ll be next ― and we’re here to support you along the way as you prepare future radiologists to add significant value to the care of their patients.

  • How are you training your residents to more effectively engage with patients and families?
  • Have you personally engaged with a patient or their family recently? What difference did your involvement make?
  • For more information and to access the free curriculum, visit

Please provide your thoughts the comments section below or on the Engage discussion board (login required).

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s