From making appointments to understanding the bill, for patients, families and providers, the entire health care system has become frustrating.
"It's now almost expected that a simple visit to your primary care physician or an imaging appointment will require taking a half day off from work," said Reed Omary, MD, MS, the Carol D. and Henry P. Professor and Chair of the Department of Radiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN.
The good news is that it doesn't have to be like this—and radiology can lead the way to creating a better health care system for everyone.
"With radiology becoming indispensable to all clinical practices, the opportunity for our field to influence not only medicine, but our communities and even the planet, has grown exponentially," said Dr. Omary, who gave Tuesday's plenary on designing radiology for patients, communities and the planet.
To leverage this opportunity, Dr. Omary said radiologists must first get outside the radiology bubble.
"We can learn from other sectors, including service, retail, transportation, entertainment and hospitality," he explained. "Every interaction on the outside is an opportunity to learn and improve what we provide on the inside."
Designing a Better Patient Experience
One example of how radiologists can benefit from applying 'outside' concepts inside their practices is human-centered design. Long used by a range of industries, human-centered design uses the human perspective—including emotion and especially empathy—to solve problems and create new products, services and solutions.
According to Dr. Omary, this same concept can be used by health care to design a better patient experience and exceed patient expectations.
"By understanding patient needs, we can clarify the problems we are trying to solve and transform the maze that is health care into amazing health care," he said.
From there, the team can brainstorm ideas, prototype, and test out potential solutions.
"This iterative process becomes a partnership between patients and the health care team," Dr. Omary added. "As we learn our way towards success, each interaction becomes an experience in co-design."
Bringing Radiology into the Community
Dr. Omary also stressed that reinventing patient care shouldn't be confined to one's own hospital or imaging center.
"Radiologists can promote the health and wellbeing of citizens outside our clinical practices by helping design better communities," he said.
As Dr. Omary explained, community-centered design includes spreading knowledge, know-how, and can-do spirit at nursing homes and schools or via the local media.
"We must be active citizens, supporting the arts, serving on the boards of local non-profits, working to improve access for essential public services, and promoting public spaces–all of which not only help create healthier communities, but also increases the points of contact citizens have with health care professionals," Dr. Omary said.
This civic mindset can be expanded to encompass the health of the planet.
"Unfortunately, there's not a vaccination against climate change," Dr. Omary said. "Addressing the climate crisis requires a redesign of nearly everything we do, both professionally and personally."
That includes simple actions like powering down monitors and reducing travel to establishing green teams within one's own practice.
"And let's not forget that sustainability can be a powerful tool for promoting equity and justice," Dr. Omary added.
What the Future Holds
So, what does the future hold for radiologists? According to Dr. Omary, the answer is "a vast amount of change."
"As we look to radiology in 2030 and beyond, we should prepare ourselves for career opportunities that do not yet exist in a health care system that does not yet exist," he said.
Regardless of what the future brings, by linking the practices of patient-, community- and planet-centered design, radiologists will be well-positioned to have a big impact on designing a better future for everyone.
"For radiology, it's not just an opportunity, it's our responsibility," Dr. Omary concluded. Access the presentation, "Designing Radiology for Patients, Communities, & the Planet," (T4-PL04) on demand at Meeting.RSNA.org.