Radiologists and patients: The rocky road to engagement

By Katie Dvorak

Now more than ever, the importance of patient engagement in healthcare is being touted from coast to coast, especially as new payment models and government regulations begin to take effect.

Even radiologists, long acting as the wizards behind the curtain, are stepping out into the light to help improve their patients' health by becoming engaged in their care.

Doing so, however, is no easy feat; patient engagement was one of the biggest challenges the radiology industry faced in 2014, and that is no different this year. But radiologists are taking the challenges in stride and are making sure their efforts help patients, primary care physicians and their colleagues.

Some radiology departments already engage patients, because it has been a goal for their institutions from the start, such as at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

At Emory, "this is who we are, this is what we're about," Richard Duszak, vice chairman for Health Policy and Practice in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at Emory, told FierceHealthIT in an exclusive interview. "We have increasingly incorporated into pretty much every step of our delivery systems in radiology an increase in emphasis on patient engagement."

At other practices, patient engagement is part of overarching initiatives. That includes Massachusetts General Hospital, where population health is a major focus, James Brink, radiologist in chief at the health system, told FierceHealthIT.

Still, some feel there's more hype than reality when it comes to patient engagement being a large part of new payment models.

"I can't think of a single insurer that's paying us today for patient engagement measures," Kent Yucel, radiologist in chief at Tufts Medical Center, told FierceHealthIT. "I think there's a lot of hype to that. There's less reality to it than one might think."

However, Yucel said having radiologists work to improve patient involvement in their own care is positive because it will help guide discussions with primary care physicians.

In this FierceHealthIT special report, we look at how radiologists engage patients, the obstacles they face in doing so and where they see patient engagement down the road.