Radiologists need patients—and vice versa

As long as you’re aware of what radiologists do, you only need to have been an imaging patient a time or two to appreciate how much value the specialty adds to U.S. healthcare. Personally, of course, I know what rads do because of my work. But I also have plenty of firsthand experience to draw from. Thinking back, I count four MRIs, two CTs, one diagnostic ultrasound and a dozen or so x-rays. At least. 

I didn’t meet the radiologist for any of those exams. But there was one time I found myself wishing I had immediate access to one. 

It happened after my thumb got whacked backward. The next day—a Saturday—the injury was still painful enough that it drove me to drive myself to a nearby walk-in clinic. The lone doctor there, a friendly and talkative chap, treated my partially detached thumbnail and x-rayed the thumb.

His next move amused me before it irritated me. He called me over to a lightbox and asked if I saw anything amiss in the image. I thought he was joking. I was wrong. The radiologist who served that clinic worked no nights or weekends. The walk-in doc was baffled and needed help from someone. Anyone. He sent me home with instructions to call if the thumb felt worse. 

The following Monday, a nurse at the walk-in called. “Mr. Pearson, the first metacarpal on your right hand is fractured,” she told me. “You need to get that casted as soon as possible.”

A radiologist could have told me this before I went about my business for two days, popping stomach-irritating NSAIDs and risking further injury to my thumb. It would have been nice if a rad had been on site, or at least on call, that Saturday morning. 

Then again, I could have done a little digging to find a provider known to place as much priority on quality of care as on friendliness of staff. And care quality at provider sites, I am reminded, includes radiologist coverage. In the age of Imaging 3.0 and, patient resources are easy to come by and patients are front and center to radiology. Next time I fracture this or hurt that, I’ll know to do more to hold up my end of the bargain.  

And speaking of symbiosis: RBJ will soon seek reader input on two initiatives. Check in regularly at to have your practice considered for inclusion in the 2018 Radiology 100. And look to our April/May issue, as well as to, for word on the start of our inaugural Imaging Innovation Awards.