How can radiologists improve their public image?

In the ongoing effort to facilitate relationships between patients and radiologists, one thing seems clear: radiologists need all the good publicity they can get.

Yet, it seems that when it comes to the media, radiology is basically invisible. A famous athlete like Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees undergoes an MRI to ascertain the extent of his quadriceps injury, yet we know nothing of the radiologist who interpreted the scan. As Mark Mamlouk, M.D., a radiology fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, points out in a recent column in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, that's par for the course--the lack of acknowledgement, he says, comes as no surprise.

In actuality, things may be even more depressing for the specialty. According to a study presented earlier this year at the European Congress of Radiology, most patients believe that television shows like "House," "ER," and "Grey's Anatomy" have accurately portrayed radiologists at work, despite the fact that most radiologists believe their portrayals are unflattering and less than accurate.

Here's a case in point from radiologist Douglas Burnette, as related in a commentary published last year in Diagnostic Imaging. Referring to the pilot episode of "ER," he recalled a scene in which a surgeon gives an intern a tour of the hospital and tells him to ignore radiologists "because they are all idiots."

It's bad enough to be invisible, but to be portrayed that poorly certainly bodes ill for the specialty, particularly if the public thinks they're getting the straight scoop from TV medical dramas.

So what's to be done? Certainly the professional societies are doing their best to raise radiology's profile. Anyone who has ever attended the Radiology Society of North America's annual meeting can vouch for the staff's heroic efforts at publicizing the news and hottest research coming out of the conference.

Mamlouk has several suggestions, as well. For example, he says, some radiologists trained in media relations could be designated as radiology spokespersons to discuss radiology events in the national media. YouTube is another medium through which radiologists should be able to explain the role radiology plays in patient care, or though which radiologists can publicize their latest research.

If the goal is to help the public more accurately understand what it is that radiologists do, and to comprehend the role they play in diagnosing and treating their diseases, it's not a bad idea to use news and social media as a way of getting the message across.

It's certainly a lot better than being referred to as a bunch of idiots. - Mike  @FierceHealthIT

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