doctor_female_patientWhen it comes to imaging and radiation, patients want the straight scoop—direct from their doctors.

By Marianne Matthews

Patient engagement. Patient-centered healthcare. Improving the patient experience. You’ve heard all the catchphrases, but how are physicians actually doing when it comes to meeting patient expectations? Several recent studies explore the topic and bring to light mixed results including some interesting insights regarding what patients want from their doctors when it comes to diagnostic imaging.

A new survey from Nuance Communications Inc, titled “Healthcare from the Patient Perspective,” found that regardless of age, wellness, or country, the importance of meaningful conversation between patients and physicians cannot be underestimated.

The Nuance survey assessed data from 3,000 people across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. The majority of respondents agree on the top things they expect—and physicians need to focus on—when it comes to delivering quality medical care. For example, 73% said “time for discussion,” and 66% said “verbal communication of specific recommendations.”

A similar patient expectation for communication and dialogue with their doctors was identified in a recent study conducted by researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). The team analyzed over 9 hours of transcribed conversations with 30 people who had undergone medical imaging exams. The group primarily consisted of cancer patients, but also a small number of participants in a lung cancer screening program. The goal was to determine the patients’ understanding of the benefits and risks associated with various imaging, and their expectations regarding communication of those benefits and risks.

The study, which was published online in the journal Radiology, found that participants understood definite benefits of CT scans, x-rays, and nuclear medicine examinations, but that patient knowledge regarding which imaging tests use ionizing radiation was variable and generally poor. For example, some patients were unsure if ionizing radiation was used in mammography and bone scans, and many were uncertain about its use in MRI.

Perhaps most interesting, while the majority of participants were highly aware of risks associated with ionizing radiation exposure, they expressed a desire to receive this information from their own doctor. What’s more, patients said they wanted to be given information about the rationale for specific imaging tests and testing intervals, as well as testing alternatives. But instead of getting it from the source, most were seeking out this information on their own through Internet searches.

The study appears to spotlight a gap between patient expectations regarding imaging tests that use radiation and current communication practices. Patients want information and they want it from you. But the medical imaging community—as well as ordering physicians—needs to do even more in the way of education and outreach.

Are you taking the time to educate patients? At AXIS, we want to know. Post a comment about how your organization is keeping patients informed and up-to-date about the benefits and risks of imaging.