The cost of unnecessary imaging in the United States, examinations that waste resources and expose patients to unnecessary risks, has been estimated at more than $12 billion annually.
Value-based care strategies and the use of evidence-based medicine both emphasize the judicious use of imaging, but patients should be active participants in any discussion. Engaging patients can be difficult because most do not fully understand the uses of and differences among imaging modalities.
Closing that knowledge gap and empowering patients continue to propel the Joint Commission’s award-winning Speak Up™ campaign, which began in 2002. The latest iteration, released last month (December), is “Speak Up: X-rays, MRIs and other medical imaging tests.” This new campaign is an infographic that can be downloaded and printed for display in waiting rooms or imaging suites, posted on websites or used in social media campaigns. All Speak Up campaign materials are free to use, with no copyright or reprinting permissions required.
The infographic was developed in conjunction with the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging, the American College of Radiology, the Radiological Society of North America and the Society for Pediatric Radiology. Like all campaign materials, the infographic is written in a way that’s easy for patients to understand and shows the benefits and risks of medical imaging.
“As providers, it is our responsibility to help patients fully understand what the benefits and risks are for every imaging procedure, so they can make an informed personal decision on what is best for their health,” Ana Pujols McKee, M.D., executive vice president and chief medical officer of the Joint Commission said in a news release.
Collaborating with industry groups, the Joint Commission has been working diligently in the imaging field to stress appropriateness and safety of imaging studies. In 2008, the commission released an alert entitled “Preventing accidents and injuries in the MRI suite,” followed by “Radiation risks of diagnostic imaging” in 2011. The latter alert stresses “raising awareness among staff and patients of the increased risks associated with cumulative doses and by providing the right test and the right dose through effective processes, safe technology and a culture of safety.”
Radiology plays a critical, yet supporting, role in patient care by helping physicians and surgeons make diagnoses, track the progression of diseases such as cancer, plan procedures and perform post-op studies. As payment modalities continue their shift from fee-for-service to value-based care, every part of the healthcare system faces close scrutiny – including radiology.
This presents an opportunity to reduce the use of imaging and raise the stature of the radiology department while at the same time educating patients, which can help satisfaction metrics. A previous blog post outlined the ways that healthcare leadership and radiologists can use value-based care strategies to influence change. These methods bear repeating:
- Educate referring physicians: Physicians can feel pressured into ordering unnecessary tests (defensive medicine) or tests that may not be appropriate. Working with hospital leaders, radiologists can educate physicians about testing alternatives.
- Follow evidence-based guidelines: Clinical-decision support (CDS) tools, including those for medical imaging appropriateness, have reached maturity and can be found within many physician workflow tools. Urge their use or adoption in health systems that don’t have imaging CDS.
- Analyze gaps and redundancies: Achieving true value-based care requires the active participation of every department. Radiologists and radiology department supervisors should closely examine workflows to reduce redundancy, fill care gaps and provide appropriate, patient-focused care.
Tools such as the Joint Commission’s new medical imaging infographic provide valuable education for patients and emphasize the emerging importance of value-based care in the U.S. healthcare delivery system.
What are you doing in your organization to educate patients about medical imaging? Feel free to leave me a comment.