Recent research has shown that direct communication with radiologists makes patients more satisfied and referring providers more educated. In a January 2018 survey, 96% of patients said that reviewing imaging studies with radiologists improved their understanding of both findings and recommendations. A 2016 study found that 45% of acute care surgeons revised their surgical plans after meeting face-to-face with radiologists. Since the digitization of imaging, however, the practice and workflow of radiology has tied radiologists to their PACS workstations severely limiting their ability to participate in face-to-face, and even phone- based, communications.
So how can radiologists reenter the communications fold that is so critical to collaborative, patient-centered and value-based care? Pilot programs at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have found an answer in telehealth tools which can bring radiologists to the point of care in real-time without requiring them to leave the reading room.
Video Presence in Patient Meetings
MGH tested bringing radiologists into patient meetings with providers via telepresence delivering impressive results. Using a video set up in their reading rooms, radiologists were able to virtually connect to patients and providers whether they were located within the hospital or at a local clinic. Among providers, 97% were satisfied with the experience of these virtual consults and 92% reported that they improved their understanding of patient medical conditions.
Video Presence During Morning Rounds
At Children’s, radiologists were virtually connected to ICU clinicians during morning rounds using Skype. For a 10 to 15 minute period, the clinicians convened in a conference room to listen to “microlectures” on each current case by the attending radiologist who was located in the reading room. Through this virtual link, radiologists and clinicians are reconnecting as they used to when they reviewed film-based images together in reading rooms during what were called radiology rounds. Like the MGH pilot, this research delivered positive results by increasing the confidence of clinicians, educating pediatric trainees and either reinforcing or altering clinical care plans.
“Through the creative use of technology, it is possible to circumvent workflow limitations to recreate meaningful consultation and radiology education between radiologists and ICU physicians. Bringing radiologists closer to the point of care and improving interaction with referring providers has the potential to further improve patient care,” wrote the study’s co-authors.
In addition to telecommunications, the technology set up for this virtual solution allow referring providers to gain fast and simple access to patient images under discussion. In addition, the images being viewed by both patients and referring providers have to be viewed at the same resolution. In other words, the viewer on the referrer end needs to display the same diagnostic-quality image that the radiologist is viewing to ensure clear communication.
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