When it comes to ensuring patient satisfaction, radiologists have it tougher than other specialists who have the opportunity to meet with patients face to face. So they have to be creative.
Jim Borgstede, MD, professor of Radiology-Diagnostics at University of Colorado Hospital, has spent much of his career focused on improving customer service, patient experience and clinical processes.
Five years ago, he decided that in order to understand how satisfied his patients were with their radiology service, he needed to take a direct approach.
“The best way for me to get a pulse on how my patients feel is to go to the waiting room and talk to them,” said Dr. Borgstede. “I typically visit once a week. I introduce myself, and then ask the following questions: Are we meeting your needs? Do you have any questions about your exam? Do you have any comments about how our department does or doesn’t work for you?”
“Oftentimes patients want to tell me a story about why they’re there, so I simply listen,” he said. “Sometimes they are concerned about radiation risks, so I address those concerns by comparing it to everyday risks, such as riding in a car.”
This direct, patient-friendly approach has since been validated by the American College of Radiologists with Imaging 3.0® – their new “vision and game plan for providing optimal imaging care” – which suggests radiologists should adopt a more service-oriented attitude.
Patrick Kneeland, medical director for Patient and Provider Experience, said Dr. Borgstede’s leadership improves patient care. “He works persistently to drive interdisciplinary and cross-specialty collaboration,” he said. “Dr. Borgstede is a tireless advocate for patients and routinely goes above and beyond to make patient rounds from a specialty that traditionally has limited patient contact.”
Dr. Borgstede explains that he fully endorses Imaging 3.0 and believes that such an approach is the way forward.
“Often when you talk to radiologists they will say that the volume of their work stops them from getting out into the waiting room and meeting patients. They say they can’t afford to do it. But in my opinion, it’s essential. It’s future thinking. If we want to put patients first, this is what we need to do. If every radiologist saw a few patients each week, the impact would be tremendous.”
Such an approach also improves staff morale. “When staff see you out there meeting patients,” Dr. Borgstede explains, “it helps reinforce that you’re a part of their team and they’re a part of yours.”
Many patients, however, are still surprised to see a radiologist in the waiting area.
“I explain to them that it’s important for us to meet,” he said. “Otherwise all I see is their images. I want to know how they are doing and how they feel about us. Then I give them my card and tell them they are free to call me. The last thing I do before moving onto the next person is thank them for being our patient.”
Despite giving out his phone number, Dr. Borgstede says that he doesn’t receive many calls. “I think the reassurance that someone is there, that someone is listening, is enough,” he says.
Dr. Borgstede and his team are working to improve the patient experience further, by analyzing all available metrics. “The biggest patient complaint is usually the wait time,” he said. “But a lot of these complaints can be alleviated by informing the patient of how long the wait is and why it’s that long.”
When it comes to the tangible results of prioritizing patient satisfaction, Dr. Borgstede explains that in some ways his approach simply avoids negative feedback. “You don’t get complaints if you’re out there and able to address issues when they arise.”