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RSNA president's address: Assessing the impact of COVID-19, and the importance of patient experience

by John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent | November 29, 2021
The two keynote speakers in the President’s Address and Opening at RSNA 2021 tackled the need for change in the medical imaging field from two different perspectives. One speaker urged attendees to “rethink and reimagine” the field of radiology post-COVID-19 pandemic. The second physician speaker shared how his father’s death in the hospital launched his quest to discover how patient satisfaction data insight can save lives and improve outcomes.

“The impact of COVID-19 has been far-reaching, affecting every aspect of our personal and professional lives," said outgoing society president Dr. Mary C. Mahoney. “The pandemic has also opened our eyes to myriad issues in our profession, from workflow inefficiencies and staffing vulnerabilities to stark inequities in patient access to our care.”

Mahoney, endowed chair and professor of radiology at the University of Cincinnati, who specializes in breast cancer, described how the radiology community came together in the pandemic as “truly inspiring.” She reminded her colleagues of how the earliest knowledge about the COVID-19 pandemic came from the work of radiologists around the world and their chest CT studies. Best practice findings and solutions were published in the RSNA's Journal of Radiology.

"COVID-19 has reminded us that we cannot be siloed in terms of institutions, countries, or even continents. We are all part of large global systems, and we are strongest when we work together," she said. “RSNA has helped radiologists around the world navigate the obstacles of this pandemic.”

She described how the RSNA initiated a COVID-19 radiology registry MIDRIC, a database of thousands of COVID-19 patients. RSNA also founded the Radiology Health Equity Coalition with several other worldwide radiological groups. These efforts were motivated in part by the fact that Black and Hispanic patients in the U.S. were almost three times more likely to contract COVID and twice as likely to die from it. Just as people of color are overrepresented in mortality figures, minorities in the medical imaging field are underrepresented.

Mahoney also spoke of the need for radiology “to fight for a seat at the table” in the shift to value-based healthcare delivery. The transition requires an imperative shift to holistic subspecialty expertise for patients, the medical community, and the public at large without limitations imposed by demographics or socioeconomic status.

“We need to balance the science of the image with the art of patient care,” stressed Mahoney.

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