Simple sit-down has outsized impact on patients prepping for nuclear medicine exams

Radiologists are continuously striving to achieve more patient- and family-centered care. And when one New York-based nuclear medicine department saw their patients were falling behind, they decided to take action.

Montefiore Medical Center noticed individuals weren’t properly prepared for their treatment and established a nuclear medicine clinic to remedy the problem. As part of the service, physicians speak directly with patients to ready them for their appointments. Operating for 14 years now, these meetings have significantly improved the patient experience, according to a new study, published Feb. 29 in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology.

“This report demonstrates the importance of our pretreatment nuclear medicine clinic to the patient experience, which is vital in contemporary medical practice where the quality of patient experience is directly linked to value,” wrote Jesse Berman, MD, with Montefiore’s Department of Radiology, and colleagues.

In an effort to gauge exactly how these consultations affected nuclear medicine patients, the researchers surveyed 38 individuals before and after they met face-to-face with a physician. During these sit-downs, a clinician provided disease-specific information, discussed planned therapy, offered tip sheets and checklists to prepare for the exam, and answered any questions.

Prior to the consultation, many people came to their appointment without having adequately adjusted their diet, medication or home environment for therapy. Moreover, most had limited knowledge about their upcoming exam or procedure, and the side effects that might follow.

The survey showed that less than half (44.7%) of patients were “somewhat” or “extremely” familiar with the term “nuclear medicine doctor” before their scheduled sit-down. There was a dramatic turnaround after the clinic visit, and 86.8% of patients became more aware of what these specialists do.

The success of the consultations was also underlined by the fact that a greater number of patients said they felt “perfectly calm” with their therapy plan after the meeting. These feelings also applied to their outlook on the length of therapy, potential side effects and radiation precautions.

A number of other studies have reported similar success with pre-procedural physician visits, the authors noted. And lawmakers, institutions and radiology departments should keep these benefits in mind as they continue the transition from volume to value.

“Although physicians may regularly have opportunities to engage patients, there is workplace pressure to work towards relative value unit-driven activity, interpreting imaging studies, rather than take time in their day for activities without a defined value,” the authors wrote. “The lack of compensation or RVU for performing patient consultation is one major consideration among a number of challenges hindering adoption of patient-centered practices throughout imaging departments and institutions.”