In the not-too-distant past, patients seldom, if ever, had an opportunity to meet face-to-face with a radiologist or access their own imaging reports. In addition, providers rarely asked for feedback or considered the patient’s perspective when implementing new policies. But in the age of patient satisfaction, times are changing as radiology practices and hospital radiology departments are implementing patient-centered strategies intended to improve patient care and, in turn, support an increased level of patient satisfaction.
Patient satisfaction is critical given the transition from volume- to value-based care. CMS reimbursements are now tied directly to patient satisfaction scores, especially through the well-known Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey. Poor HCAHPS scores cost facilities money, with underperformers losing out on payments. It didn’t take long for providers to make performing well a top priority.
“The incentive reimbursement based on HCAHPS is far too significant to risk low patient satisfaction scores,” says Eric B. LoMonaco, director of diagnostic and interventional radiology at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP) in Monterey, Calif. “Private imaging practices also are being paid based on value. Much of that value comes from patient satisfaction, and it is incumbent on providers to implement strategies to make that happen.”
So, what have radiologists been doing to “make that happen”? A number of things, it turns out, all in the name of better care, better satisfaction and better reimbursement.
A Building Block
For some imaging practices and radiology departments, adopting a patient communications model built on empathy and a personalized approach ranks among key patient-centered radiology strategies. “This is a building block,” says Mark S. Lerner, RT, division director of radiological operations at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. “It’s impossible to be at all patient-centered without breaking out of the mold where patients are regarded as ‘the chest x-ray,’ ‘the CT of the liver’ or similar.”
Lerner’s department employs the AIDET healthcare communication framework developed by Studer Group. AIDET stands for “acknowledge,” “introduce,” “duration,” “explanation,” and “thank you.” In accordance with the framework, technologists greet each patient by name, making eye contact and acknowledging any family members or friends in the room. Staff members then introduce themselves and cite their skill set, professional certification and experience, telling the patient the duration of the imaging exam and how much time will elapse before a physician arrives or an update is provided. Next comes a step-by-step explanation of the imaging procedure and what to expect as it occurs, followed by thanking the patient for choosing the facility and thanking the family members or friends for offering their support.
To “signal to patients that they are in a value-based department,” Lerner continues, technologists and other staff utilize an AIDET add-on known as “AIDET Plus-The Promise” when introducing themselves. This involves looking the patient in the eye and saying, “I’m going to take excellent care of you today.”
Taking patients’ individual circumstances into consideration is another iteration of the personalization strategy, according to Jason N. Itri, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the radiology and medical imaging department at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville. Itri explains that his department has configured its technology to prioritize the reading of studies based on such factors as the timing of patients’ appointments with their physicians. For example, if a patient has just undergone an imaging procedure and is scheduled to see his or her physician in two hours, that study would be bumped ahead of others in the queue to accommodate the patient.
“Timely access to reports figures very significantly into patient satisfaction,” Itri says. “No patient is going to be happy if a report isn’t available when it is needed—and being patient-centered in our strategies means making allowances for personal requirements.” A scheduling application that integrates with imaging equipment and reportedly makes it easier to handle requests for imaging appointment changes is currently being tested, Itri adds.
Upping the Involvement Ante
Strategies aimed at supporting