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Tips for creating a successful pediatric radiology department or practice

by Lauren Dubinsky , Senior Reporter
From the March 2019 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

“Radiology is very much a customer service-oriented industry,” said Dr. Alexander Towbin, radiologist and associate chief of clinical operations and informatics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “We are often the intermediaries of referring providers and patients and we are managing the expectations of both.”

First and foremost, he believes being an excellent intermediary is the core of any successful pediatric radiology department or practice. Many radiology subspecialities don’t attract their own patients so they rely on ordering providers to refer patients to them.

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These departments and practices also rely heavily on the patients and their parents. It’s important to keep them happy so they will want to come back and perhaps even recommend friends and family members to the facility.

Keep the kids happy
Some procedures, especially the invasive ones, are uncomfortable; so it’s vital to explain the procedure to the children using language that’s at the appropriate development age. It’s also imperative to design a child-friendly environment, which means having up-to-date decorations, video goggles, modern entertainment options and Child Life specialists.

These specialists are experts in childhood development and child play at appropriate ages. They interact, communicate and play with the children throughout fluoroscopy and nuclear medicine exams as well as MR exams, when the facility wants to decrease the use of sedation.

“It’s great to have stickers and stuff, but kids want to play on tablets,” said Towbin. “Having an iPad or other tablets to play on while they are undergoing tests lets them watch videos or play games.”

He added that it’s important to also have ways to distract children with special needs. For instance, children with autism require different toys and distractions than children without the condition.

Emphasis on empathy
“Radiologists are often the first people to diagnose bad things like cancer,” said Towbin. “We are often the ones who have to break the news to families. It’s a terrible, life-changing moment for any parent to get that news.”

He added that it’s the facility’s job to provide this news in a manner that is respectful and best supports the family. When he makes a diagnosis on an ultrasound, he immediately calls the oncologist, ordering provider and CT or MR technician so that everything is lined up before talking with the family.

His facility also offers private rooms for the families to discuss things after receiving the news. It’s during that time that they can ask the questions and take in the information, while the support staff distract and play with any children that may be present.
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