Some days, radiologists might feel like they’re on their own. Like an athlete training during the off-season, they’re working out to prepare for the season’s start—doing sprints, lifting weights and stretching. But just as an athlete could feel distanced from their team during these off-season workouts, in their day-to-day work, a radiologist might also feel siloed from the rest of the healthcare organization. In a typical day, a radiologist’s varied tasks may not necessarily include other members of the healthcare team; for instance, radiologists review images sent over from the emergency department, analyze the dozens of mammograms waiting in the PACS radiology queue, teach residents, and conduct peer review processes.
But radiologists are increasingly being called upon to become team players, perhaps even top hitters during post-season play, as teamwork in healthcare becomes a key goal at many healthcare organizations. A winning team in the playoffs requires a well-rounded set of players, as the strength of each player’s specific skill set makes the team stronger as a whole.
Multidisciplinary teams are likely to have varied configurations depending on patient needs, but may include members such as a primary care physician, nurse practitioner, pathologist, dietician, social worker and specialists. RSNA President Sarah S. Donaldson, M.D., called on radiologists to become more active on multidisciplinary teams at the most recent RSNA annual meeting last November. “While radiologists may feel they can’t free up personnel to participate in every clinic, conference, and tumor board, they must do so,” she said. “To succeed in today’s health care environment, we must be part of the team.”
Radiologists’ expertise adds strength and value to a multidisciplinary team, and they improve the patient care that organizations provide. Here are three specific ways radiologist contributions matter to multidisciplinary teams:
There’s a pop fly heading to the outfield; the centerfielder yells, “Got it!” and makes the catch. A study from the University of Sydney found that multidisciplinary teams are well organized and benefit from improved communications.
Radiologists around the world are speaking up about the importance of being a part of multidisciplinary teams. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the UK recommends that multidisciplinary teams care for cancer patients, in part because of the improved communications between different team members who have a formal working relationship.
Dr. Jim Reekers, a professor and radiologist in Amsterdam, also encourages radiologists to ensure that radiology is at the center of a multidisciplinary team and to talk to patients face-to-face when possible. “Directly communicating imaging results to patients will enable radiologists top participate in the decision-making process as equal partners in their healthcare.”
Reduce Radiation Dose.
Going into a match-up, many baseball coaches review videos of the opposing team and analyze their strengths and weaknesses. As experts in radiation dosage, when taking part in teamwork in healthcare, radiologists can give valuable input about possible strategies that reduce exposure. Radiologists may recommend, for example, follow-up tests that emit less radiation, such as an ultrasound or MRI instead of a CT scan.
Medical professionals at Emory University are working as a team to implement radiation tracking reduction strategies and are finding success at reducing exposure. They’re tracking dosage both across the institution and at the individual scanner level, seeing success with dose levels being reduced below the average benchmarks. Depending on the scanner, the safety committee chair estimates that dosages have been reduced by 30 to 50 percent.
Improve Your Practice.
During a baseball game, the manager might head out to the mound to offer the pitcher tips about an upcoming hitter’s weaknesses or give a pep talk.
Radiologists on multidisciplinary teams benefit from receiving timely, helpful feedback from their colleagues. A study of Australian radiologists found radiologists who regularly participated in multidisciplinary team meetings for breast cancer saw numerous benefits. Not only did the care they provided patients improve, but so did their workplace satisfaction. Radiologists who are an active part of teamwork in healthcare have a reduced sense of workplace isolation.
Radiologists who join a multidisciplinary team will see a number of benefits. Like high-performing baseball players, they’ll be able to better communicate with their team, know what strategies to implement for best practices and attain valuable feedback to help them improve their game. And as they benefit, so do their employers and, most importantly, their patients.
Learn more about changes in the healthcare arena by downloading our e-book, The Evolving Enterprise Imaging Market.