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 Healthgrades.com, 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 Radiology100.com to have your practice considered for inclusion in the 2018 Radiology 100. And look to our April/May issue, as well as to RadiologyBusiness.com, for word on the start of our inaugural Imaging Innovation Awards.