How a hospital improved communication between radiologists, referring physicians

Diagrams and an easy-to-use website can help improve communication between referring physicians and radiologists, according to a new study published in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology.

The study’s authors noted that their own institution, a large public hospital, features seven radiology reading rooms located on three different floors. Referring physicians have a clear pathway for reaching radiologists when necessary, but it isn’t necessarily convenient.

“Access to a radiologist for consultation is via a central phone tree with a recorded message, requiring selection of an extension by the caller to reach the subspecialty division interpreting the imaging study of concern,” wrote authors Alexander M. Dabrowiecki, MD, Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and Laura K. Findeiss, MD, Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. “The hospital operator has a master list of reading room contact numbers. However, there is no unified document outlining the process for calling a radiologist readily accessible to hospital personnel.”

This makes reaching a radiologist, especially a subspecialist, a “significant pain point” for other physicians, Dabrowiecki and Findeiss observed. They aimed to address that issue by implementing a few key changes at the hospital.  

First, a “clear and simple” diagram was developed that uses an illustration of a skeleton to show which radiologists interpret which exams.

“Separate areas were created to guide the provider to the correct contacts for after-hours studies and technologists,” Dabrowiecki and Findeiss wrote. “The document was printed out and displayed in the most common provider work areas on the patient floors and in the emergency department.”

A website was also developed that contained the same basic information, and the resources were spread throughout the hospital. The website helped users place phone calls by placing their finger on text as needed.

Six months after implementation, the website was receiving 55 monthly visitors, 34 unique visitors and 62 page visits. Those numbers increased to 75, 42 and 96, respectively, by the ninth month after implementation. Traffic did dip during the eighth month, the authors noted, but they “feel this can be partially explained” by the fact that it was February, the shortest month of the year.

“The solution of a simple diagram and readily accessible electronic solution may expedite and improve accuracy in accessing the correct subspecialty reading room, alleviating some of the inefficiencies encountered for all parties,” Dabrowiecki and Findeiss wrote. “Streamlining and improving availability of radiologists for consultation with clinical teams allows for optimization of clinical care and enhances the value of radiologists in health care systems.”

Future work in this area, the authors added, will include “continuously monitoring the website traffic and promoting this resource at any opportunity we have.”