Work with patients and families to make radiology better

Editor’s Note: The following is a blog written by one of Augusta University Medical Center’s longtime patient advisors Donna Adams. It was published this week on the American College of Radiology website.

I recently spoke at ACR 2016 – The Crossroads of Radiology®. To the knowledge of all involved, I was the first patient to speak at an ACR annual meeting. I am told that my appearance reflects a sea of change in the way radiologists interact with patients and how they are working to make radiology more patient- and family-centered. I expect this is true and hope the insights below can help radiology and patients move forward together.

People need to feel valued.
All of us are people and, at one point or another, we are all patients or family members of patients. We want to feel we are equal partners in what happens to us — in the care that we or our loved ones receive.

Patients and families want radiologist contact.
I know radiologists don’t always have the opportunity to interact directly with patients. However, when practical, patients and their family members would like to hear from the radiologist why he or she diagnosed them with a condition or injury and review with them the films or scans to provide the visual explanation for the findings.

Meet with your patients and their families.
Where possible, I strongly urge you to provide patients/families with as much information about your diagnosis as possible and engage them in a conversation regarding your findings. Many people will not ask questions, not because they don’t have any, but rather because they aren’t able to necessarily form their thoughts. Many of their concerns might be emotionally charged resulting in their hesitancy to ask questions. I recommend health professionals lead conversations by asking open-ended questions such as “What concerns you the most about the findings?” This will then give the provider a starting place from which to teach.

Involve patients/families in planning.
In my area, the hospital is involving patients and family members in the planning for and design of new hospital (imaging) facilities. Patient and family advisors, like me, also help inform them how their workflow and operating procedures can be more patient- and family-centered.

Talk to your patients/families to get started.
If you are unsure how to start getting patients involved — talk to them. Ask patients and their family about their experience — if they felt valued as individuals; what they liked; what they felt could be improved; and their recommendations for change. Concern for people’s experiences under your care shows them they are valued. This culture-of-care is what drew most of the advisors at our facility to become advisors. It goes without saying that it is good medical and business practice to establish and strengthen relationships with those you serve.

The ACR has started a Commission on Patient- and Family-Centered Care chaired by James Rawson, MD, FACR, who practices in Augusta, GA. I, and other patients, serve on that commission. We look forward to helping radiologists and allied professionals work with patients to make radiology better for all of us. The Patient- and Family-Centered Care Resources section on has more information to help this process.

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Written by
Denise Parrish

Denise Parrish is Director of Communications for Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement at Augusta University. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic at 706-721-9760 or

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Written by Denise Parrish

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