RSNA: Patients first—A golden opportunity

CHICAGO—George S. Bisset, III, MD, RSNA president, threw down the gauntlet to his colleagues during the RSNA 2012 opening session. Eighty to 90 percent of radiologists never meet their patients, according to Bisset, who urged radiologists to reconsider the status quo and become a critical part of the patient care team.

During his year-long tenure as RSNA president, Bisset has criss-crossed the globe, visiting facilities to see the front line of profession. “The great news,” he said, “is we are doing better than ever. We are a vibrant and essential sector of healthcare.” Yet, Bisset cautioned the audience against resting on radiology’s laurels, explaining that tremendous changes—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, accountable care organizations, patient-centered medical homes—are percolating through the U.S. healthcare system.

The common thread linking these changes is patients. “Our future depends on our capacity to develop shared ownership of patients’ needs and expectations along with our primary care colleagues. It’s time to redefine patient care not as product we deliver but as the virtue we live and breathe,” Bisset said.  

Radiology, according to Bisset, has not responded to patient-centered trends in healthcare. Radiologists, in their quest for efficient and accurate delivery of results to clinicians, are invisible to patients. "It’s easy to forget that the body parts we are studying are attached to a human who may be demoralized by loss of control in an assembly line radiology department," Bisset said.

He urged radiologists to do things for, not to, the patient. He challenged radiologists to raise the profile and value of their services and communicate care to patients. On the macro level, this might entail adding a policy of patient-centered care to the practice mission. Concrete steps to move the specialty in this direction include:

  • Visiting the radiology waiting room to talk to patients about their experiences;
  • Adding features to reports to help patients better understand results; and
  • Signing the Radiology Cares pledge at the RSNA membership booth.

With these steps, radiologists can convey key points to various stakeholders. They can demonstrate that they care to patients and that they are an integral part of the healthcare team to physicians and policymakers.