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Patient advocate lecture may be a first ever at RSNA

by John W. Mitchell , Senior Correspondent
A panel of four physicians and a patient advocate shared their work to improve the patient imaging experience during an educational session Monday at RSNA 2018 in Chicago. While the details of their initiatives differed, they each spoke to a common theme: increasing patient satisfaction works best when it is a commitment, not a matter of compliance.

Moderator Dr. Ramin Khorasani, MPH vice chair, Department of Radiology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, informed the capacity audience that theirs was one of the few patient experience sessions at RSNA this year. He also advised that the inclusion of a patient advocate, Andrea Borondy Kitts, MS, MPH, may very well have been the first appearance of a trained patient advocate and researcher on an RSNA panel.

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Borondy Kitts, a former rocket propulsion engineer, made the change to patient advocacy when her husband was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer and died. Combined with her own ongoing hip surgery medical issues, she now specializes in working with lung cancer patients and other patients at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center. She also blogs on patient advocacy issues for the Journal of the American College of Radiology and has had several journal studies published related to patient-centric issues.

Despite the data that indicates 20 percent of all medical errors are related to radiology, she reported that her own and other patients’ experiences are that radiologists are not readily available to speak to patients.

“I have yet to talk to a radiologist about my results. The one time I really tried, I was told it was not allowed," she said. She believes there is a big opportunity for radiologists to offer such direct patient communication to improve care. Toward the end of the session, she and Khorasani discussed the concerns radiologists have responding to patient phone calls or emails, due to authentication and privacy concerns.

“Unfortunately, physicians often struggle with HIPAA, which does allow them to speak to their patients to explain results. It would be better patient care if such guidelines were interpreted properly,” Borondy Kitts told HCB News. She said that guideline information was readily available online to assuage physician concerns.

She and another presenter also shared several examples of medical centers and physicians who have designed patient-friendly reports and other communications to enable patients as “care partners.” This can help reduce medical errors and improve the patient experience.
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