What Admins Need to Know: A Recap of Hot Topics at AHRA 2014

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 - Mayfield
Mark Mayfield says practices should strive for patient advocates.
Source: Harry Butler Photography.

Radiology administrators have a lot on their minds these days. New regulations—at both the state and federal level—must be accommodated, technology must be upgraded, and overshadowing it all is the new economics of healthcare that demands better care at lower costs. Fortunately, AHRA, the association for medical imaging management, offers some much needed guidance.

AHRA’s annual meeting always has great insights for radiology administrators. If you couldn’t be at this year’s conference in Washington, D.C., don’t worry; Health Imaging was on site. Read on for a recap of our coverage from some of the engaging presentations that caught our eye.

Caring about the patient experience

During one of the keynote presentations at AHRA, attendees were challenged to think beyond the satisfied patient. In the current healthcare environment, providers shouldn’t simply want satisfied patients, they should strive to create patient advocates.

Mark Mayfield, former corporate lobbyist turned performer and speaker, gave the energetic talk on the second full day of presentations, and tried to dispel some customer satisfaction myths that apply to medicine. One notion he urged the radiology administrators in the room to abandon is the idea that patients are either satisfied or unsatisfied. Providers should strive for a third category: the advocate.

“[Advocates] tell their story—your story—and the experience they had to other people, and they bring more people in,” he said.

A dissatisfied customer, on the other hand, may not tell the provider of their frustrations, but they do tell an average of 8-10 people, Mayfield added.

Another misconception in dealing with patients or, more broadly, the customer experience in general is that satisfaction is a static line. Mayfield said it’s more dynamic, and just because a patient is satisfied at one point doesn’t mean the situation won’t change quickly.

Mayfield also offered a twist on the golden rule, saying providers need to do unto patients as the patient would like done unto them. Providers can’t assume a patient would like information relayed in the same way the providers themselves do.

Ultimately, the No. 1 characteristic that will be judged is credibility, so Mayfield urged the audience to get off autopilot and don’t treat patients as a number. “I want you to care a little more than you have, because in the world of patient care, care is becoming more and more critical.”

Breast density notification: Soon to be a standard

Breast cancer screening presents a legal minefield for providers, and breast density notification laws are set to add another wrinkle to the already complex situation.

The U.S. is the most litigious country in the world, and breast cancer claims make up the greatest number of malpractice suits, according to presenter Bonnie Rush, RT, president of Breast Imaging Specialists in San Diego, Calif., and AHRA advocate liaison to Are You Dense Advocacy Inc.

One of the issues is a misconception among the public about what mammography screening can actually accomplish, Rush said. Many people feel that mammography screening is more definitive than it really is, and that radiologists should be held responsible in all cases where cancers are missed or there is a delay diagnosis.

Rush suggested that radiologists need to assume the role of educator, making sure to get the word out about the potential for false positives and false negatives to curb misconceptions. “We need to make sure that [patients] don’t end up…with an unreasonable expectation. They become disappointed, they then become angry, and then they litigate.”

As breast density notification legislation spreads through the states, the legal calculus will begin to change, added Rush. Judgment of negligence is based on whether a provider performed the standard of care, and with breast density notification laws now passed in 19 states containing more than half the U.S. population, it will soon be standard of care to notify women if they have dense breasts. Women with dense breasts who are not notified about supplemental screening options and then develop cancer will be able to point to the notification standard in other states and ask why she wasn’t informed.

About 40 percent of women have dense breasts, which both puts them at a higher risk of cancer and also obscures cancer on mammography.

Boost value with dose safety

Radiation dose safety presents an outstanding opportunity for radiologists to add value and assert their role in the