Technology and The Patient ExperienceJun 29, 2021
Let’s have a chat about technology and the patient experience. I just read another quick article on auntminnie.com (CLICK ME for the article) about how radiology practices can leverage technology to enhance the patient experience. I like all the ideas in the article, some of which are easier to implement than others. I’ll let you be the judge. But, I also have some of my own thoughts on what I would want as a patient and what I think can be implemented pretty easily to boost patient encounters. In a day and age of instant gratification, such as sending money instantly to friends, family and businesses through Venmo, ordering a taxi with the click of a button or getting food delivered on demand from DoorDash, medicine and in particular radiology, needs to modernize.
So here are some of my ideas.
Who wants to call a number anymore and wait for someone to finally pick up the phone after 15 minutes and pressing 13 buttons to get to the right menu, all just to schedule an appointment for you. This sounds pretty old-school doesn’t it? In the past year or so, my medical system has started rolling out an app version of making appointments to patients and they seem to love it. You basically open up the app, look for an open slot on the calendar and select it. Now some slots may be geared more towards a quick check up versus a full first time physical, but that’s all easily labeled in the app that the patients can choose themselves. There is also an area where you can type in the reason for the appointment if you’re not sure. Maybe you have a case of the sniffles and it’s getting worse and would like to be seen. This would be more of a quick check up. Maybe you’re a brand new patient to the office/physician and you want to establish a relationship with your new doctor. These appointments typically last longer, anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. Anyway, all these little details are adjustable by the medical system IT people and over time, once they work all the bugs out, this should be a pretty easy method patients can use to schedule their appointments. How would this work in radiology? Well we generally scan the same number of patients every day, give or take what is coming in through the emergency room. If you’re in an outpatient imaging center, this volume probably doesn’t vary very much; for example in MRI, we schedule patients every 45 minutes or so, and we do this 6 days a week. If we’re talking about a hospital CT scanner, many of the exams performed will be from the ER or inpatient side, however there always seems to be room to get a bunch of outpatients in and at my institution, we sprinkle in an outpatient exam at a rate of about one outpatient per hour throughout the day to keep up with demand for getting CT scans. So I can imagine as a patient, if my doctor puts the order in for a particular CT scan, once that order is received by the electronic health record, I can then go in and pick the day and time available that suits my schedule best. Doesn’t this sound much better than the phone and hold situation. Of course you can never really get rid of the phone option, for offices and patients who prefer to talk to a live person, but I believe this sort of practice will continue to be less in demand over the coming years.
More and more, patients nowadays are reading their own radiology reports whether they can understand all the terminology or not. This is something that patients just want in our current medical environment and this is in opposition to the older ways of doing things where patients had to sign 6 documents and jump through hoops to get copies of their medical record. Well, not anymore. In my system, as soon as we sign the radiology report, these results are almost instantly uploaded into the patient’s electronic health record. And to improve on this experience further, I think patients should have the option of being sent a text message or email when their new radiology report is ready to view. To me, this sounds fantastic. If I was a concerned patient and I had an imaging study performed, I would want to know the results right away. In the past, those results would have to go through a primary care doctor before they got back to me. Well with modern medical systems and the proper IT in place, this is no longer the case. Patients are reading their own reports from various radiology exams and looking at their own laboratories all the time. Many times, they are doing this even before their primary care doctor gets the results. I can see how this could sometimes get frustrating to the referring physician, where a patient may end up calling the office to try to find out what certain items in the report actually mean and want to discuss things even before the referring doc saw the results themselves. But this is the direction that medicine is going and I think referring providers better get used to it and figure out a way to incorporate this workflow into their practice. And once things move in this sort of direction, they typically don’t turn back. There is a demand for this sort of instantaneous result feedback. Patient’s want it and so if you are a practice or medical system and not currently providing it, then don’t be surprised if your patients go somewhere else.
Viewing radiology images:
The days of waiting around and getting a CD/DVD copy of your CT scan are numbered in my opinion. There’s no reason why an app can’t display your images on the fly, especially nowadays where everybody is walking around with a high-tech computer in their pocket. There are many different ways to do this sort of thing. Try to encourage your admin people and bean counters to make the investment, because I think it will pay off in the long run for the medical systems that do so. If you can’t provide an app to patients to view their own images, well then how about you send them some sort of web link in an email that they can click on. This can take them into a HIPAA friendly cloud based software viewer where they can look at their own images via a simple click. We already do this with our referring providers doctors offices. And most of our local offices are given easy access to our PACS or some sort of image viewer, a scaled down version of course, that they can use in their workplace when looking at a scan with a patient. In addition, perhaps a surgeon just wants to review the knee MRI they ordered to see if they agree with the radiologist about the medial meniscal tear. Anyway, this is definitely something patients as well as referring providers are interested in and if your radiology group/medical system, is not already providing this feature and making it easy and accessible to your clients, then you better get with the times.
So, those were just some of my ideas about how radiology groups and medical systems can leverage technology to improve the patient experience. There are other ways that you as a great technologist can enhance the patient experience as well, but for that, you’d have to take a look at one of my fantastic courses which now offers ASRT approved Category A continuing education credits. The Patient Communication Course I created is all about enhancing the patient experience, gathering critical details from the patient and medical chart and teaches you lowdown on the secrets and strategies used by the best senior technologists in the industry. If you want to improve your status at work, get 1.5 CE credits, advance your career and provide excellent patient care at the same, then this course is for you. To learn more and get a better idea of what this course is all about, just go to www.SpeakToPatients.com. I promise you won’t regret it. This is the sort of training that you don’t get in those “pass the test” certification programs and is generally acquired through many years of on the job training.
However, if you aren’t quite ready for an in-depth course involving patient communication, I have a 100% FREE course you can try out, which will put you on a path to becoming one of the most desirable technologists to work with at your institution. You can get INSTANT ACCESS to this FREE course by going to www.CTSuperTech.com
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