Nurturing the Patient Relationship

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By placing patients at the center, radiologists can alleviate burnout and provide better care.

How can our patients become our partners? And why is it important that we think of them that way — that we expand the role that not only patients, but also their families, play in their own care?
These are the important questions continuously circled in this ACR Bulletin special issue on patient- and family-centered care (PFCC). You’ve probably heard this term over the last several years. In fact, its core concepts were developed jointly by patients and providers more than 20 years ago. Certainly, you’ve seen PFCC written about in the JACR® and talked about at the top annual conferences. But if you haven’t yet taken a moment to step back and think about what PFCC means to you — and to your patients and their loved ones — here’s a primer before you dive deeper into the specific stories featured in this issue.

What Exactly Is PFCC?

According to an article published in the JACR, many related and intertwined terms are associated with PFCC.1 Some call it simply “patient-centered care.” Others prefer “co-design” or “co-production with patients and providers.” Some even modify to “person- and family-centered care.” Regardless, the most agreed upon definition of PFCC is “a model of providing care in which the patient and family are partners with the provider and care team.”2 In short, PFCC means approaching the planning, delivery, and evaluation of healthcare in a way that forms a partnership between providers, patients, and families.
Indeed, PFCC can take myriad creative and effective forms in the healthcare setting. As James V. Rawson, MD, FACR, chair of the ACR Commission on Patient- and Family-Centered Care, writes alongside his coauthors in the JACR, “PFCC is a joint journey through an ever changing landscape of new technologies, new treatments, and increasing patient involvement in their own health and healthcare.”3 For an oncologist, PFCC might mean listening closely to a family’s priorities for their child with leukemia before suggesting treatment plans and then working closely with the child and family to help choose the right route. For a department head, PFCC might mean hiring more diverse staff in their department to decrease implicit bias toward patients and broaden the base of experience within the practice. For imagers specifically, PFCC could also mean altering radiology reports to be more patient-centric, evaluating which information and components are most important and how to ultimately communicate what they mean to a patient’s health (learn more on page 14).
According to the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care, PFCC also takes into consideration the fact that a patient and his or her family are the ones to determine who the “family” is. For some, it may include extended family or those not related by blood. This essential mind shift is all part of putting patients and their loved ones at the center of care and decision-making.

Why Is PFCC Important to Radiology?

In the era of Imaging 3.0® and the shift to value-based care, radiologists need to be on the forefront of PFCC. As Cheri L. Canon, MD, FACR, writes, “As radiologists, we must fight the temptation to depersonalize images.”2 She adds that radiologists have a unique risk of becoming disconnected from patients, because they are so often isolated in the reading room. But by placing patients at the center of care — as PFCC necessitates — imagers can mitigate burnout and provide better care.
What does this look like exactly? And how can radiologists be better advocates for PFCC in their own departments or practices? The pages of this issue illuminate the innovative and forward-thinking ways radiologists are approaching PFCC to be better partners to patients and their families — no matter the form that essential partnership might take.
By Alyssa Martino, freelance writer, ACR Press
1. Rawson J, Moretz J. Patient- and Family-Centered Care: A Primer. J Am Coll Radiol.
2016;13(12):1544–1549. Available at
2. Slanetz, J et al. Fostering Patient- and Family-Centered Care in Radiology Practice.
J Am Coll Radiol. 2018;15(5):784-786. Available at

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