RSNA 2016: Knowing the importance of communication between radiologists, physicians, patients

Though radiologists spend a majority of their time interpreting images behind a computer screen, proper communication with both referring physicians and patients still plays a significant role in providing the best care possible.

“Communication is one of those meta skills that, if you can dial it up a couple of notches, can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your practice,” said David Fessell, MD, a Professor of Radiology and executive coach at the University of Michigan Health System.

Fessell is scheduled to moderate a panel, “Communicate for Success,” on Thursday, Dec. 3, at RSNA 2016 in Chicago. The presentation will touch on such topics as self-communication, the role of communication in radiology’s future, and the benefits of excellent communication.  

Fessell—a graduate of the Second City School of Improvisation, the famed Chicago comedy theater with alumni including Bill Murray and Tina Fey—learned first-hand the value of getting one’s message across as thoroughly as possible. He will speak to the value of self-communication during his portion of the presentation.

“Self-communication begins with taking a deeper dive into your own self-awareness,” Fessell said. “It’s about recognizing the tension in one’s body and how you can assess that. From there, it spreads to paying emotional attention to yourself, your thought stream and energy level, and finding the meaning of why you do what you do each day.”

Bibb Allen, MD, a diagnostic radiologist in Birmingham, Alabama, and the president of the American College of Radiology, will also take part in the presentation, offering insights into how communication impacts performance on a systemic level. His portion of the presentation will cover ACR 3.0, including the guidelines and recommendations currently established for radiologists to better communicate with patients and families. 

Richard Gunderman, MD, PhD, from the Indiana University School of Medicine's department of radiology, will close the presentation with a discussion of how to get the most out of one-on-one communication

Fessell noted that these personal, face-to-face interactions are crucial in healthcare.

“Knowing how to address someone on an individual level is important,” Fessell said. “Whether that person is a doctor, patient or family member, the goal should be to enrich and deepen your connection so that person leaves the conversation better informed and aware of your commitment to providing the best possible treatment.”

Fessell said that those who attend the presentation can look forward to learning specific strategies that can be put into practice immediately.

Collaborative communication is one of those strategies. Instead of viewing a conversation as an opportunity to assert your opinions on a matter, collaborative communication requires active listening, Fessell has said. This allows radiologists to better absorb information and potentially pick up on relevant details  that might otherwise have been missed.