Radiology stakeholders often point out that imaging is the most IT-advanced medical specialty. Indeed, radiology has elevated informatics to an absolute science, developing and leveraging systems, tools and processes to measure lesions in millimeters and productivity in milliseconds.
It is an apt quest that may enable physicians to deliver personalized medicine and allow departments to squeeze every ounce of efficiency out of their resources.
Yet, radiologists' love affair with informatics may need to be tempered a tad.
This month's cover story journeys to another world—the referring physician's office. Unlike radiologists, many referrers are not quite so enamored with informatics.
"Despite the inroads of evidence-based medicine, MRIs, angiograms and PET scanners, there is clearly something special, perhaps even healing, about touch. There is a warmth of connection that supersedes anything intellectual, and that connection goes both ways in the doctor-patient relationship," wrote Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, in an Aug. 2, 2010, New York Times essay.
It's somewhat analogous to the relationship between radiologists and referring physicians. Certainly, critical results can be transmitted by clinical messaging systems and integrated decision support can guide image orders. Teleradiology providers have demonstrated their prowess at providing night and weekend radiology coverage.
However, these tools have contributed, at least in part, to the commoditization of radiology. Much like the patient eager for eye contact and genuine care, many clinicians are looking for a relationship with radiologists. PACS and other advances in imaging informatics have made it all too easy for radiologists to disconnect from patient care and hone in on hyper-efficient image interpretation.
Diagnostic accuracy and optimum efficiency are critical, but they do not comprise a complete imaging practice. Radiology exists to serve referring clinicians and patients. The assembly line imaging model does not always meet patients' or referring physicians' needs. Trust and confidence are built via communication and contact.
As radiology providers ponder the New Year and consider resolutions for their businesses, many (I hope) are examining how they can leverage data, analytics and informatics to better their practices. It's an important undertaking.
The best-positioned practices also may reflect on meeting the needs of the people on the other side of the image. Although I'm unaware of an app for that, I'm confident that such efforts will be well-received.
On behalf of the entire TriMed Media staff, I extend our best wishes for a productive, profitable and patient-centered New Year.