Communication key to radiologists' relationships with hospitals, referring docs

Improving communications efforts and advocating for better quality are among several things radiologists can do to maintain and strengthen crucial relationships with hospitals and referring physicians, according to an article published this month in the American College of Radiology's ACR Bulletin.

Effective communication, according to Cynthia Sherry, M.D., of Southwest Diagnostic Imaging Center in Dallas, helps processes run more smoothly and prevents small problems from developing into the kind of problems that can threaten contract renewals. "It won't solve every problem that occurs," Sherry says, "but it will sure give you a heads up if there is a problem."

Meanwhile, by advocating for quality, radiologists demonstrate their commitment to providing optimal care for their patients. "Hospitals have to conform to quality metrics, on which radiologists often take a leadership role," Geraldine McGinty, chair of the ACR Commission on Economics, says. Radiologists frequently help to maintain and develop such standards for hospitals and referring physicians.

In addition, radiologists should make efforts to attend staff meetings or join hospital committees. By doing so, they not only make themselves more visible, but also more indispensable. For instance, according to Sherry, when a hospital cancels its contract with a radiologist, often times, radiology groups seemingly are in the dark about the cause. "There are things going on that the radiologists aren't aware of because they haven't weaved themselves into the fabric of the hospital and the medical staff," she says.

Helene Pavlov, radiologist-in-chief at the New York-based Hospital for Special Surgery Department of Radiology and Imaging, expresses similar thoughts in a commentary published in November 2011 focusing on the impact of hospital-physician alignment on radiologists. 

"[Hospital administrators] often believe that radiologists are replaceable; there are 'cheaper virtual teleradiology options' for image interpretation, given that the geographic location for interpreting images is no longer an issue," she says. "[Radiologists] must be able to answer clinical questions accurately for subspecialized clinicians and participate in, if not initiate, clinically relevant research. Justification for employment ... is linked to these value-added services, in addition to critical value reporting, capital resource management, and contributing to a decrease of inappropriate utilization."

To learn more:
- here's the article
- read the full ACR Bulletin issue

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