The top step I took to the 2012 RSNA exhibit halls at the McCormick Center in Chicago bore the RSNA theme “Patients First”. Above my head, a circular banner asserted the same. While it was not so apparent in the past, putting patients first is nothing new. When has radiology ever put them second?
Over the last three decades just about every interview I’ve done with radiologists has been peppered with references to “image quality” and “outcomes”. But what the RSNA said this year was different. In the opening day address, “Putting patients first – rhetoric or responsibility”, RSNA president George S. Bisset, M.D., exhorted radiologists to re-examine their traditional relationship with patients and to make radiology procedures more patient friendly.
“It is in our best interest to make our procedures more patient-friendly and to observe care more often through the eyes of the patient rather than through our own," Bisset explained.
The tools do so are in hand. For years, Philips has been hawking its “Ambient Experience”, which revamps the scanning environment with soft lighting, relaxing video, and soothing music. GE uses a symbol of “caring hands” on its ultra-short wide bore MR scanners, which along with competitors’ wide bore and open scanners demonstrate how far we have come from the long, narrow cylinders of a decade ago. CT and nuclear scans have gotten dramatically shorter and their radiation exposure substantially less over the last few years. And more such patient-oriented technology is on the way.
At this last RSNA meeting, Philips and Siemens introduced interventional systems that promise to cut dose in some interventional procedures by more than 80 percent. Siemens introduced a point-of-care ultrasound scanner featuring wireless transducers that eliminate the cables that could snag equipment or contaminate a surgical field. GE unveiled a work-in-progress scanner, called Silent Scan, that can cut noise levels in the MR suite from a peak above 120 decibels to 76.
Over the last 30 years, radiologists have put patients first through their use of increasingly precise technologies, ones that have made diagnoses more accurate and patient management more precise. This is continuing, just as industry crafts tools to make radiology kinder and gentler.
It’s remarkable that these developments in patient comfort and safety have been gathering momentum just as radiology’s leadership builds the culture to use them.