A Simple Connection
To foster patient engagement, radiologists should put their contact information in their imaging reports.
As health care moves toward quality, radiologists are looking for ways to provide added value and engage patients. While some practices have instituted consultation services and other programs that give radiologists face time with patients, many groups don’t have the resources for such initiatives. And that’s okay.
Improving the patient experience doesn’t require grandiose efforts.
One simple way radiologists can connect with patients is to put the radiologists’ direct contact information in the imaging reports. Once available only to referring physicians, imaging reports are now accessible to an increasing number of patients through online portals. Radiologists who include their phone numbers and email addresses in their reports can open a dialog with patients.
Still, some radiologists are hesitant about listing their contact information in their reports. They worry they’ll be inundated with calls and messages from patients whose questions will disrupt their traditional workflow. But radiologists who already offer their phone numbers and email addresses in their reports say those concerns are unfounded.
Jennifer L. Kemp, MD, FACR, diagnostic radiologist and body imaging subspecialist at Diversified Radiology in Denver, and her colleagues have been including their direct phone numbers in their reports for about four years. Kemp says she receives a couple phone calls a week from patients who have questions about their imaging and care — interactions that both she and her patients value.
For instance, Kemp recently received call from a patient who had undergone an abdomen and pelvis CT in the emergency room. In her report, Kemp mentioned that the patient had a ground-glass nodule in the base of her lung, and the patient wanted to know whether she should be concerned about the finding.
Such findings are usually insignificant, but when Kemp learned the patient was a smoker, she explained that the finding was a bit more concerning and recommended a follow-up exam. “The patient said that our discussion helped motivate her to go to a smoking cessation class,” Kemp says. “It was a rewarding exchange for me, and it benefitted the patient.”
During another recent call, Kemp spoke with a patient who had undergone a chest, abdomen, and pelvis CT without contrast but whose primary care physician had actually meant to order a CT with IV contrast. The patient wanted to know whether a repeat CT was necessary and, if so, how concerned he should be about the additional radiation exposure, Kemp says.
“This patient happened to be 76 years old, so I was able to put it into context for him and explain that the radiation risks from another CT scan are pretty minute for someone his age compared to somebody who’s 20 or 30 years old,” Kemp says. “Because I took the time to talk with the patient, I was able to alleviate some of his fears about getting a follow-up CT scan.”
These are just two examples of the scores of valuable calls Kemp has received since she began putting her phone number in her reports. “Even though I’m not inundated with calls, the calls I get often involve giving patients useful information and answering questions that their referring physicians could not have answered,” she says.
As Kemp’s experience demonstrates, radiologists who think they will receive more phone calls from patients by including their contact information in their reports are right. That is the point, after all. But this is a low-cost way to engage patients and have a more direct impact on their care.
By Jenny Jones, Imaging 3.0™ content specialist