How radiologists can avoid becoming a ‘ghost in a dark room,' take ownership of patients

As radiology practices seek to maintain quality while working through their backlog of imaging studies, it will be crucial that they take “ownership” of their patients.

This entails assuming responsibility for each individual, avoiding excuses and resolving to make things right, American College of Radiology President Debra Monticciolo, MD, shared in remarks posted to JACR Monday. In her own practice, this has translated to correlating breast biopsy results, telephoning patients and even setting up surgical consultations.

She implored her peers to seek such control in their own work, and to target artificial intelligence as one possible way to assist.

“As radiologists, we need to take more ownership of the patient,” said Monticciolo, section chief of breast imaging at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Temple. “Our clinician colleagues need our expertise. We need to be an integral part of the healthcare team. Not a ghost in a dark room.”

Doing so, she added, will not be easy with loads of studies backlogged since the start of the pandemic and an increased use of remote reading. “It is the only way to stay relevant,” she cautioned. “In my practice, my technologists and nurses help me, technology helps me, but I do not want or intend for those to replace me.”

For those still struggling with this notion of ownership, Monticciolo encouraged fellow physicians to hark back to why they entered the medical profession—the service of patients.

“This role is one that no one can take away,” she advised. “It can be neglected and may have been in some quarters. But it is ours to make what we will of it. We can be important in our patients’ lives and remain relevant to our colleagues. Or we can let someone, or something, do that for us. Again, it is up to us.”

You can read the entire transcript of her presidential address—originally presented at ACR’s 2020 virtual meeting—here, and watch a video of the speech here.