Whitney Palmer

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How Radiologists Can Improve Communication with Referrers

Published on the Feb. 26, 2013 DiagnosticImaging.com website

By Whitney L.J. Howell

Communication. It’s been a big topic of conversation in the radiology industry, both at national meetings and inside individual practices. There’s a distinct need to improve the way radiologists and referring physicians talk to each other. The sticking point, however, has been how to do it.

There’s no question, though, the specialty needs to implement effective strategies to make communication faster, easier, and more effective. With more than 70 percent of referring physicians sending their patients to multiple facilities for imaging studies, according to one national study, it’s incumbent upon radiologists to make these working relationships as worry-free and attractive as possible, industry experts said.

“The overall effectiveness of an organization is highly dependent upon the radiology department’s ability to provide top-notch service to referring physicians, and streamlined communication is a very important piece of that puzzle,” said Mats Björnemo, director of radiology IT product marketing at Sectra, a Sweden-based radiology consulting firm. “Radiology lies at the very center of the healthcare chain. Most patients pass through an imaging department at one point or another in their treatment.”

Not only does this fluid information transfer allow for immediate input from radiologists, potentially staving off any inappropriate or repeat testing, but it also ensures patients experience fewer — if any — delays in care. In addition, these processes help radiologists quickly share any critical findings, as well as play an active role in multi-disciplinary discussions, Björnemo said.

Why Improve Communication?

While many industry leaders promote better communication as a way to raise your department’s profile within a health system or demonstrate the impact you make as radiologists, there are other reasons behind fine-tuning the way you connect with referring physicians.

According to an October 2012 Sectra report, doctors have a great interest in being able to access your schedule and book appointments for their patients online. But only 7 percent of surveyed physicians indicate the radiologists to whom they refer have web scheduling as an option. Many physicians included in the report consider offering this capability is vital to completing time-sensitive scans.

That doesn’t mean referring physicians want to eliminate all face-to-face or phone contact with you,  Björnemo said. This is where the pendulum that has lurched toward teleradiology in recent years is beginning to swing back toward having in-house radiology staff. When reviewing results, physicians want — and appreciate — being able to ask questions and talk with you directly.

Steps to Take

To effectively improve communication, however, you will need the right tools. In today’s mobile world, you will likely get the most use out of zero-footprint viewers that require no software installation or extra equipment, Björnemo said. It’s also important to consider communication products that are vendor-neutral.

For example, Carestream’s Vue Motion offers zero-footprint, vendor-neutral access to diagnostic images through any web browser or electronic health record. Without installing or downloading software, providers can use sticky-note communication, order information entry, side-by-side image display for comparisons, and synchronize images.

This type of universal product is particularly efficient in transferring critical findings in a timely manner, Björnemo said.

Clear communication can also be difficult because radiologists dictate reports in their own style and lexicon, and these differences can sometimes confuse referring physicians. And, communications products that standardize report narratives have eliminated this problem, said Aaron Brauser, Catalyst solutions manager at M*Modal. The M*Modal Catalyst for Radiology™ product uses the RadLex® Term Browser to create uniform reports.

“The biggest challenge to communication lies with the various inconsistencies of systems used in complex healthcare environments, and we’re starting to see people move toward uniformity,” Brauser said. “It’s important that no matter how the radiologists might dictate the report,  or who the report is from, that the referring physician be able to readily see what’s indicated.”

In addition to implementing a product that is compatible with almost any system and standardizing your reports, 60 percent of referring physician’s surveyed in Sectra’s report indicated 3D visualization would improve communication. Presenting findings this way would be one strategy for enhancing their ability to present and explain results to patients, they said.

To read the remainder of the story at its original location: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/practice-management/how-radiologists-can-improve-communication-referrers

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March 8, 2013 Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mobile Computing in Radiology: the Challenges and Benefits

Published on the Feb. 12, 2013, Diagnostic Imaging website

By Whitney L.J. Howell

Hospitals and physician practices are full of electronic sounds. The whir and clunks of imaging equipment. The quiet hum of patient monitors. The background buzz of computers. In recent years, though, a new sound has become ubiquitous: the ding of the text message or mobile email. Smart device technology has come, full-throttle, to radiology.

More than 80 percent of physicians own and use mobile devices, according to recent surveys, and, a 2011 Jackson & Coker Associates study reported nearly 25 percent of radiologists were already using them clinically. That number has only grown in the past two years, said Jon DeVries, vice president of product solutions at Merge Healthcare.

“At any industry event or session, every single radiologist comes in with some sort of handheld device. Every single one of them is using mobile technology to some extent. It’s a massive trend,” he said. “It’s changing the way people practice. Diagnostics are still done at work stations, but it’s changed how they collaborate, form partnerships, and provide care.”

A Culture Shift

Radiology has always been the early adopter of technology in health care. But, even among this forward-thinking specialty, introducing and incorporating mobile devices into everyday use required a cultural shift. The biggest factor, said Rasu Shrestha, MD, vice president of medical information technology at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center (UPMC), has been provider age.

“One of the key things we’re seeing is an entirely new generation of clinicians that has always been used to technology, and they’re developing a level of comfort and acceptance of mobile devices in the industry,” he said. “Even other clinicians are getting accustomed to this notion of always being ‘on.’”

The ready-made access to colleagues that mobile devices provide has also helped nurture the spirit of collaboration within the specialty. As mobile devices and apps move from being novelties into mature technologies, Shrestha said, radiologists and other clinicians are more easily able to work together as a clinical care teams. Being mobile has gone from being trendy to being a necessity.

“A little more than a year ago, ‘apps’ and ‘mobile’ were buzzwords,” he said. “Now they’re accepted as part of workflow, and they’re well integrated.”

One of the greatest outcomes of increased provider comfort with mobile technology has been improved communication between provider and patient. Providers can now display images on a tablet for patients to see, and viewing the studies on a smaller, more familiar device — rather than a large, clinical screen — can be less intimidating for the patient.

Improving Communication

Perhaps the biggest way smartphone and mobile device technology has touched radiology is through enhanced provider communication, DeVries said. Whether it’s with critical care or emergency patients, mobile technology has streamlined the way radiologists and referring physicians discuss patient care.

“The big area where we see radiologists using smartphones and tablets is in the way they interact with colleagues,” he said. “These devices give them the freedom to get out of the reading room and out onto the floor so they can have face-to-face interactions with co-workers and patients. It’s enabled them to build better relationships.”

Mobile technology can even help you stay connected when you’re away from your hospital or practice. Various apps for the iPhone, Blackberry, or Android let you quickly look at scans so you can discharge patients or initially evaluate a trauma case. These apps aren’t intended to be used for true diagnostic reads, DeVries said, but they do keep the process of patient care flowing.

Herman Oosterwijk, president of Texas-based health care technology training and consulting firm Otech, agreed that mobile devices are the lynchpin of prompt communication and timely patient care. While reaction time to an email might be slow — often more than an hour — responses to text messages are frequently instantaneous.

“Texting and communication between smart devices is incredible,” he said. “People are always listening for that ‘beep’ or ‘ding-dong’ that alerts them that someone wants to tell them something.”

According to DeVries, Merge’s iConnect product offers you this kind of immediate access. The zero-client viewer can be launched through any electronic medical record system and can pull images from any PACS. Carestream’s Vue Motion software also offers similar capabilities, presenting you with patient information quickly to avoid any slow-down in care.

To read the remainder of the article at its original location: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/practice-management/content/article/113619/2128049

February 26, 2013 Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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