In today’s competitive environment, every physician must consider not only crucial quality-of-care but also the quality of the referrer and patient experience. As highlighted in Part I of this article, the right technology can help fill the gap. For example, a quality digital reporting system also can enhance communication with referrers, while a well-designed patient portal can go a long way towards building a strong relationship with patients. Other technologies also can be leveraged to provide a high level of service for both referrers as well as patients.

Advanced Reporting Systems

It’s often just a single sheet of paper or digital document, but the final radiology report is among the most crucial items impacting the referral stream and the profitability of a practice. If reports are not timely, precise and well organized, then the entire medical business can suffer. Practices that are not leveraging all of today’s innovative reporting tools may find their competition has an unfair advantage.

The best reporting systems will enhance a practice’s workflow by providing the flexibility to support each physician’s preferences through customized protocols, terminology unique to radiology and more. Through advanced templating, a good system also will produce reports that are more precise, consistent and easy-to-understand. That’s another major benefit for your referrers.

Today, a state-of-the-art reporting platform should include:

  • A broad selection of easily customizable report templates flexible enough to cater to a variety of referring physician preferences. Templates should build in opportunities for practice branding.
  •  Powerful and robust capabilities to manage these templates and provide easy access to all radiologists throughout the practice. This not only speeds workflow but also provides all physicians with consistent reporting features—leading to standardized reports that referrers will easily understand.
  •  Easy insertion of thumbnail images and streamlined edits. Often, a picture really is worth a thousand words for your referral base. Look for “crop and paste” image addition. Advanced editing functions such as drag and drop repositioning of phrases and report availability on mobile devices for revisions on the fly will speed report turnaround.
  •  Flexible presentations that support headers, footers, highlighted text and easy-to-read reference links.
  •  Built-in Critical Findings workflow to keep referrers immediately updated on patient condition as well as to ensure radiology practice compliance.
  • Radiologist portal for remote signing, editing and archiving to speed report completion.

Patient Portals

According to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, radiology results “are one of the most frequently accessed pieces of information via patient portals when available.” Availability of diagnostic information empowers patients to play a greater role in their healthcare, eliminates delays in results communication and speeds the entire diagnostic process. A well-conceived patient portal can be a major benefit to radiologists.

To be helpful, a radiology portal should enable patients to:

  • Request appointments
  • Access current and prior exam results
  • Exchange secure messages with staff
  • Request any prescription refills
  • Download educational materials
  • Schedule email reminders

Providing patients with complete radiology reports can be a double-edged sword. Reports can be intimidating because typically they are designed for physician communication and contain medical terminology unfamiliar to patients. In fact, the study also found that “radiology test results are one of the most difficult portions of the clinical record for lay people to understand.”

One way radiologists have dealt with this dilemma if they supply a full report is by providing an additional patient-friendly explanation of report findings, a definition of common radiology terms or links to Web sites with background on radiology reporting. However a practice decides to address this, additional patient-oriented explanation will enhance user satisfaction. Radiologists might also consider a portal that also can allows patients to:

  • View radiology images
  • Share images and reports with other physicians or authorized users
  • Check insurance benefits and coverage
  • Update contact information
  • Make payments for services

Shortly, Meaningful Use will require that all physicians offer electronic patient access to health information and demonstrate use of the technology by 5% of their patients. So every practice should begin focusing on portal development for other reasons as well. Look for a vendor with specific radiology patient portal experience that is also willing to customize a solution to the practice group’s unique needs.

Other Technology

Other types of technology can also be leveraged to enhance referring physician and patient satisfaction:

  • Today many medical IT solutions have built-in analytic capabilities. Use these to analyze the workflow of the entire radiology team to identify and eliminate bottlenecks that may affect promptness of exam scheduling, exam wait time or report turnaround. For example, IDS offers an analytics component in its AbbaDox Workflow Portal.
  • Automating periodic referrer and patient appreciation emails is essentially service with a smile, and a great way to keep your practice top of mind.
  • Make all patient forms available digitally for completion before an appointment—either through email or an online portal. This will help eliminate waiting room delays and help keep appointments on track
  • Utilize a tool like AbbaDox’s Patient Satisfaction Survey to engage with patients and evaluate their exam experience. Work to improve any consistent practice shortcomings.
  •  Automated telephone patient appointment reminders often are helpful to patients and eliminate no shows for radiologists. They also are a plus for referrers who are awaiting exam results.

Don’t overlook the obvious low-tech touches. Train your team to provide pleasant patient interaction, from the first phone call to the time patients leave the office. Keep in mind, though, there are plenty of online videos to bring a high-tech accent even to this!

Yaniv Dagan is CEO of IDS based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.