The Network Effect
A practice in Chambersburg forges a connection with health care stakeholders through education.
Did you know that Confederate soldiers headed to fight in the Battle of Gettysburg camped out the night before in a town called Chambersburg, Pennsylvania? Neither did I before traveling there. A small town of around 20,000 residents, Chambersburg is located in the Cumberland Valley beside the Appalachian Mountains. Tucked into this valley is an eight-person radiology practice called Chambersburg Imaging Associates (CIA). After hearing great things about CIA’s “Radiology Education/Interactive Team,” I took a trip up Route 81 to learn more about their approach.
Headed by Robert S. Pyatt Jr., MD, FACR, the practice has for decades pursued innovative ways to maintain strong, face-to-face communication with their referring providers. One significant component of these efforts involves referrer education. And CIA’s education efforts have paid off, resulting in an increase in procedure volume. “For example,” notes Pyatt, who sat down with me to discuss the program, “we’ve seen a significant increase in breast ultrasounds and MRIs related to breast density patients. And with regards to lung cancer screening CTs, we’ve seen a significant increase in referred cases.”
Pyatt established this learning series over 20 years ago after one too many misunderstandings between the radiology staff and their referring clinicians. To bridge this communication gap, CIA radiologists began visiting referring clinicians’ facilities in their area of specialty to deliver lunchtime presentations. Radiologists might discuss radiation safety, new legislation or guidelines affecting radiology, or other issues that might arise between the two departments. In addition, notes Pyatt, the department looks for ways to promote new services and introduce new radiologists, along with discussing ways to improve and customize reporting for certain services, such as OB sonogram reports. As a result, CIA has become valued member of the area’s health system.
Although scheduling these lunchtime sessions is important, it’s vital to not limit attendees to only physicians; Pyatt emphasizes that groups should also invite as many ancillary staff as possible. “You’ve got to invite the right people from the diagnostic imaging side, and you’ve also got to have radiology departmental managers at the meetings,” says Pyatt. “The administrative people are the ones who will take the issues back home and work behind the scenes to solve any issues that come up. Then the radiology manager can be in touch to implement any changes that were decided upon at the presentation.”
Ann E. Lewandowski, MD, diagnostic radiologist at CIA, echoes the importance of opening the conversation up to more than just physicians. “I think it’s important to have the radiologist there for clinical concerns,” notes Lewandowski. “And when I’m giving a presentation, having my chief tech with me is very helpful because she can answer a lot of the more technical questions, such as those related to the logistics of scheduling, order entry, etc. By having us both there, it really helps provide answers to any questions the attendees might have.”
Anticipating attendees’ questions has helped ensure that departments throughout the health system have continued requesting these lunchtime programs. Another key to the radiology department’s success has come down to one simple rule: don’t waste anyone’s time. “You don’t want to go in there with too long of an agenda,” advises Pyatt. “You want to have a very focused topic that you can really do well. And the presentation should take between 15 and 30 minutes.” Pyatt also suggests leaving time at the end for attendees to ask questions or voice their concerns.
Perhaps the best part of the presentation series is that it costs next to no money — only the price of a modest lunch spread and, of course, time spent away from the reading room. But Pyatt says it’s all been worth it. “Referring clinicians really like the fact that we come to their offices and help solve problems,” he says. “So they want us to keep coming back.”
By Chris Hobson, Imaging 3.0 content manager
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