Despite the influx of cell phones, laptops, tablets, and other gadgets meant to streamline communication, radiologists and referring physicians still struggle to establish effective lines of communication. Yet, findings from a study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology suggest that physicians should incorporate a communication software linked to PACS as a way to improve inter-specialty collaboration.
According to a 2015 study published in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology, radiologists cited difficulties in reaching referring physicians as one of the most common “workflow disruptions”. Although the goal is to engage in effective and timely communication, “the delays and disruptions associated with making phone calls are a significant disincentive to communicating verbally with ordering physicians,” wrote lead study author Eduardo J. Matta, MD, assistant professor of diagnostic and interventional radiology at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas.
Matta and his team came up with a system to address the problem. They enlisted a Primordial Design PACS-integrated communication package, and asked a versatile group of healthcare workers, including radiologists, referring physicians technology representatives, software developers, and administrative faculty to establish the system’s protocol, which features:
· “Updated physician catalog
· Using clerical staff for troubleshooting, rather than radiologists
· Parallel workflow, keeping track of all interactions
· Physician training
· Interface occurs at the PACS station”
After implementing the software, the system needed five months to collect sufficient data in order to perform with accuracy. Once this period was over, the researchers noted immediate success.
“The number of calls to referring physicians and their teams had increased for all levels of urgency: critical calls almost tripled (from 12.2 to 34.1 calls per month), whereas non urgent calls increased more than 10-fold (from 9.0 to 115.5 calls per month),” wrote the researchers. “Now that this new process is in place, radiologists frequently call to discuss issues that may not be urgent but that still benefit from more immediate or direct communication,” they added.