A Human Touch

Putting a face on radiology, one encounter at a time.human touch

Sometimes the brightest results come out of the darkest times. A cancer diagnosis can drive anyone to despair.

However, when Sabiha Raoof, MD, was diagnosed with breast cancer, she used her experience as a patient to improve the lives and health of all the patients at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and Flushing Hospital Medical Center in Queens, N.Y.

After encountering difficulties with physician empathy and frustrating obstacles with payment and insurance, Raoof decided to create a program that would not only work to improve patient experience to the smallest detail, but also give hospital staff a chance to meet face to face with patients and understand the world patients encountered. Raoof implemented the "Make a Difference" (MAD) Rounds, in which teams of three hospital staff (anyone from a doctor to a housekeeping staff member to one of the financial officers) are assigned to visit patients. Read more about MAD Rounds at bit.ly/MADRounds_ACR.

Since its inception, MAD Rounds has changed to meet the ever-pressing demands of the hospital system. When the program first launched, teams often struggled to find a time all three were available to go on rounds together. Now, the teams consist of five members who are assigned to a floor for a month. Every day, at least one team member visits the patients on the floor, allowing staff to choose days that work best for them. "For that one month, they get to know the nurses on the floor, the staff on the floor, and they track the changes that go on throughout. After, we move them to a different floor because we want everyone to get experience throughout the hospital," says Raoof.

The MAD program has garnered recognition and respect around the hospital and earned Raoof recognition nationally. Like Samir B. Patel, MD (read Patel’s story at bit.ly/Img3_Patel), Raoof’s group was recommended to be a best practice site interviewed by the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative (TCPi). From there, Raoof was chosen to participate in TCPi as a faculty leader. Raoof is the only specialist (and also the only radiologist) among the 14 physicians chosen to advise TCPi.

In her role with TCPi, Raoof makes it her mission to carry out the MAD Rounds goal even further: “Radiology is completely different from other specialties. We have our own metrics, and we have different ways of practicing. My goal is to help CMS understand where specialists and — more specifically — radiologists fit in and can bring value.”

human touch articleThe majority of CMS leaders don’t understand what radiologists even do, Raoof says. “They feel that radiologists are physicians who simply sit behind a computer, read x-rays, and have no patient interaction at all. I want to change that picture. We have so much value we can bring to patient care,” she adds.
How can you help Raoof put a face to radiology’s value? Raoof stresses that it doesn’t take a huge budget or amount of time. Even practices with little money to move around can improve the patient experience. “It’s the little things you do that add up. You have to work to change the culture and change minds within both radiology and the larger health care community. We need to put a face on radiology and say, ‘Yes we can,’” Raoof notes.

One of the things Raoof recommends is to work on being sensitive to patients’ needs. Raoof has spoken extensively with her staff on Imaging 3.0 and its tenets. Her scheduling staff know that if a patient requests an evening appointment, they should try to accommodate the patient. Additionally, Raoof places photos of each radiologist on the waiting room wall (labeled with their subspecialty) and the radiologist’s email in the report, so that patients know who to contact if they have questions.

Raoof also places signage about Image Wisely® and Image Gently® around her office. “My office is right next to the waiting room, and I notice patients reading these all the time. They know that our practice is devoted to appropriate imaging, and there’s value in that,” she says. Raoof also included posters from the Joint Commission’s Speak Up campaign that present information about each modality and encourage patients to ask questions. (Check out the posters at bit.ly/SpeakUpRad.) “None of these tasks have cost me much money,” Raoof says.

And as far as money and reimbursement go? “A lot of physicians ask me how to charge for consulting with patients and their families, and this is what I tell them: there are certain things you have to do without pay. You consult with people to demonstrate patient satisfaction and value. We’re at that point in radiology where machines may replace us, so it’s survival of the fittest right now,” she admonishes.

But if radiologists take steps towards patient care, they shouldn’t worry about surviving. “Radiology has a human touch and we can survive,” says Raoof. “Go out there, talk to your patients. Be visible, not only with your inner circle of physicians but also with the administration. Put a face to radiology.”

By Meghan Edwards, digital content editor for the ACR Bulletin

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