"If we expand our thinking to the patient's perspective, we will find that imaging's value extends beyond the tight focus of the radiologist or radiation oncologist," said RSNA President Bruce G. Haffty, MD.
"To the patient, imaging can remove uncertainty, decrease anxiety and give hope. Through the panoramic lens of the patient, imaging is a powerful and meaningful source of knowledge and comfort that we can all relate to," he said during his President's Address in the Arie Crown Theater Sunday.
Dr. Haffty shared insights into the value patients place on imaging and the increasing importance of patient-reported outcomes like quality of life, well-being and anxiety.
"To realize the significance of the value of imaging, or any medical procedure, we need to recognize the enormous shift of our health care system from procedure-oriented care toward value-based care," Dr. Haffty said. "Value is subjective, dependent on perspective and can be different—from the perspective of the physician, the insurance company, society or the patient."
A radiation oncologist, Dr. Haffty receives daily reminders of the importance of imaging to his patients' peace of mind. "Just imagine undergoing radiation or chemotherapy—the impact of a PET/CT showing the tumor is responding. To the patient, that is real value."
Sharing an unscripted video of a patient candidly sharing the importance of follow-up imaging for himself and his family, Dr. Haffty said that from the physician's perspective, imaging is a decision-making tool to guide next steps. From the patient perspective, it can also provide a sense of well-being.
Overcoming the Challenge of Demonstrating Value
"A major challenge is how we can objectively quantify the patient perception of value to demonstrate its value to the greater medical community," Dr. Haffty said. "While this may seem difficult to quantify, it can be accomplished through patient-reported outcomes, or PROs."
With PROs increasingly used as a measure for demonstrating the value of a given intervention or specialty, Dr. Haffty said these metrics are relatively understudied and underreported in radiology literature. Many that have been reported focus on negative aspects of imaging, like anxiety or radiation fears. Yet, the positive impact is equally important to note.
"Research on imaging's value, based on patient-reported outcomes, is an endeavor worthy of our support," Dr. Haffty said.
From the time a patient schedules an appointment, through every follow-up, effort should be made to ensure they feel comfortable, informed, supported, seen and heard. "Simple measures like paying attention to the ambiance of the facility, demonstrating professionalism among patient-facing staff or reducing waiting times can all help," Dr. Haffty said.
He emphasized the importance of working not only with patients, but also with multidisciplinary partners across the health care spectrum to adequately evaluate, demonstrate and communicate the value of imaging through research, education, communication and practice.
"The bottom line is to make the patient and their family feel as reassured and comfortable as possible regarding the imaging experience—from start to finish," Dr. Haffty said. "Image results are the tip of the iceberg. Imaging's true value through the lens of the patient—quality of life, comfort, peace of mind, certainty, hope and trust— all lies below the surface for us to explore together."
Access the presentation, "Diagnostic Imaging: Value from the Lens of the Patient," (S5-PL01) on demand at Meeting.RSNA.org.