RSNA president says future about ‘more than interpretation’

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CHICAGO—As patient-driven care becomes the new reality, the president of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) for 2013, Sarah S. Donaldson, MD, has a message for radiologists: get out of the basement and make sure patients know your name.

“What I’m talking about is more than image interpretation and it’s more than rapid communication of a consultation. I’m talking about accepting responsibility for patient care, which is another excellent way to demonstrate our value,” said Donaldson during the President’s Address on Dec. 1 at the annual meeting of RSNA.

Donaldson, who is also a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, Calif., pushed radiologists to re-examine their expectations, and to build partnerships within radiology, throughout the greater medical community, and with patients themselves. These partnerships will be essential in the current healthcare environment, which has become fragmented and specialized, she said. Cost concerns and reform also will be powerful forces.

“It’s a time that requires us to produce value, not volume; outcomes, not output.”

Within radiology, Donaldson touted the benefits of integrating all areas of imaging. Cancer care benefits from the input of nuclear medicine specialists, while multimodality imaging and the coming rise of PET/MR will rapidly advance radiology’s precision. Educational programs in radiology need to be updated to include a focus on collaborative care, she said.

Looking across the spectrum of healthcare, Donaldson next urged radiologists to form partnerships with other medical specialties and suggested active participation in tumor boards and conferences as one example of how to increase visibility. By demonstrating value outside of interpretation, radiologists can increase their referral base and avoid replacement by an algorithm.

Finally, radiologists must foster relationships with patients, who are very interested in personalized care and contact with radiologists. It’s not common for radiologists to have direct contact with patients, and thus the patients do not learn the names of their imaging specialists or the huge rule they play in healthcare. If that changes, patients could become strong advocates for radiology, said Donaldson. Making this change, however, will not be easy.

“These are extraordinary times, unsettling times, because we are working in an ever-more stressful environment. One that challenges us to change, and change is always difficult,” said Donaldson.