RSNA 2017: 5 ways to improve communication with referring physicians

One way many healthcare providers have reacted to today’s era of value-based care is by working to improve day-to-day communication between radiologists and referring physicians. Monday, Nov. 27, at RSNA 2017 in Chicago, Andrew B. Rosenkrantz, MD, MPA, of the department of radiology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, shared a number of ways specialists at his institution are working to ensure they provide physicians with the information they need, exactly when they need it.

These are five different examples Rosenkrantz described in detail during his presentation:

1. Virtual Consults

Virtual consults are initiated by the referring physician and can be completed via a live chat session or screen-sharing technology. To avoid scheduling confusion, each subspecialty has one radiologist who is specifically assigned to serve as the group’s virtual consultant for the day.

Feedback from referrers working with NYU Langone has been positive. They can ask quick questions, confirm significant findings and discuss any other issues “in a non-urgent fashion during off hours when I have a minute to think.”

Rosenkrantz noted, however, that 61 percent of radiologists believed virtual consults to be disruptive when the process first went live. But numerous changes have been made to the process since then and the department now seems on board.

“At this point, we’re not seeing that internal resistance or pushback,” he said. “We really decided that this is something that is important and that we fully embrace and we try to promote it from within the department.”

Rosenkrantz added that, when compared to a regular phone call, virtual consults are much more efficient. The referring physician does not have to search for the right phone number, wait for someone to answer, wait to be transferred and so on.

“All those hassles are bypassed by virtual consults and the radiologist can use the consult to chat with a physician while they are even getting other calls,” he said. “So if they really understand how to leverage virtual consults, it can be helpful for improving workflow at the same time.”

2. Virtual Rounds

Virtual rounds are an extension of virtual consults. A large monitor was placed in the ICU conference rooms with video cameras and high-quality speakerphones installed in the clinical unit and the radiology reading room, allowing radiologists to speak to large groups at predetermined times. Residents then get to participate on both sides of the process.

“The radiologists liked this,” Rosenkrantz said. “They said it’s easy to use, they saw a strong educational value and it made them feel like they are a part of the clinical care team.”

3. Reading Room Coordinators

Reading room coordinators can be contacted by radiologists at a moment’s notice and are available to the enterprise’s entire radiology department. They help radiologists reach technologists and referring physicians, handling all necessary phone calls so that the radiologist can remain focused on the task at hand. The department has found them to be “an important tool,” Rosenkrantz said, and they are now called on more than 3,000 times each month.

For more information on the research Rosenkrantz and his colleagues have done on reading room coordinators, click here.

4. Multimedia Reports

Multimedia reports provide referring physicians with additional information without taking more of the radiologist’s time. For instance, images can be automatically fetched when the applicable information is typed into the report, creating a hyperlink immediately.

5. Embedded Reading Rooms

Rosenkrantz described an embedded reading room as the most “basic, fundamental thing” radiologists can do to improve communication with referring physicians. He described an example in an outpatient urology clinic, where a reading room is established within just a few feet of the space used by the urologists when they see patients.

This doesn’t require additional employees to be hired, Rosenkrantz noted, because the radiologist assigned to the space is not just there for consults; he or she is also still reading cases from a worklist.