Study: Radiologists often fail to provide patient-centered care

A failure to provide patient-centered care was the most common complaint made by patients concerning their radiological experience, according to a study published this month in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Researchers from the department of radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston performed a review of all radiology-related complaints received at the hospital between 1999 and 2010. The complaints were classified into several categories: those involving medical complications; radiology staff members; failure to provide patient-centered care; and categories of care based on safety, systems and professionalism.

The researchers identified 153 complaints directed at the radiology department in the period of interest, during which more than 6 million radiologic examinations were performed.

Qualitative evaluation and classification of the complaints showed that a little less than half of the complaints (44.5 percent) were associated with operational systems, 24.2 percent with safety and 17 percent with professionalism, with 14.3 percent involving more than one factor. According to the researchers, 20 percent of the complaints related to delays, including delays in appointment availability, receiving results or treatments, returning pages, seeing a clinician, wait times on the telephone, and difficulty reaching a live person.

Complaints also involved the accuracy of test results (20 percent), and attitudes of radiology staff members, staff conduct and overall customer service. Complaints about technical skill and financial issues made up 29 percent of the cases.

A different breakdown of the complaints by the researchers demonstrated that 60 percent of the cases described failures to provide patient-centered care, which seems to validate the efforts the Radiological Society of North America has made through programs like its Radiology Cares Campaign to focus more heavily on patient-centered care.

Half of the complaints were directed at radiology staff members (half of them doctors). Issues included attitudes of the healthcare providers and questions regarding the competence of staff members.

The researchers concluded that while the overall rate of complaints was low--just 1 for every 6,600 services provided--failure to provide patient-centered care was present in a majority of the complaints and issues like delays and provider attitudes were identified as areas for improvement in the radiology department.

In an article published in the July issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology, University of Michigan radiologist Ella A. Kazerooni said that radiologists should be better delivering patient-centered care.

"This starts with the patient experience from the first call to schedule an appointment or check-in at the imaging suite, to the medical results that of that encounter, and every step in between," Kazerooni said. "Collectively as a professional we have not articulated this commitment."

To learn more:
- see the study in the Journal of the American College of Radiology
read about the Radiology Cares Campaign

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