A patient-driven priority list from radiologists and diagnostic imaging centres By Raelene Kambli
A patient-driven priority list from radiologists and diagnostic imaging centres. By Raelene Kambli
‘Consumer is king’! This old business mantra has time and again underlined the importance of a customer first approach for any business model to succeed. Even today within the healthcare sector, services are driven by patient demand. Be it care within hospitals or diagnostic centres, healthcare providers are becoming sensitive to the clinical and emotional needs for their patients. World over, healthcare providers are introducing various customised services that will lead to patient satisfaction and improved healthcare outcomes.
Micah Solomon a Washington-based patient-centred care consultant and author, writes about how successful healthcare providers worldwide have made a science of customer service to drive patient satisfaction. In his article tilted ‘8 ways to improve patient satisfaction and patient experience’ he explains this science and mentions how patient satisfaction and patient experience can be a successful strategy to run a healthcare business. This strategy has the potential to improve traditional healthcare delivery systems as well as empower patients, build trust in the long run as well as earn profits for the organisation. Interestingly, patient- driven services are a familiar territory for those in the business of women’s imaging. This field of expertise has high traction in terms of volumes and value and form a larger segment of imaging businesses, contributing to maximum revenue. Therefore, providing special services to their women patients certainly is an important component.
25 women speak their mind
23 Women opine that precision in diagnosis is a must
22 Believe that advanced medical technology used at the radiology centres will help improving precision of diagnosis
20 Feel hygiene factors cannot be compromised while seeking diagnostic services
19 Prefer to go to a radiologist who explains to them the process and results of the diagnostic test
The other priority is hospitality services as 16 say that their trust in an radiology centre is built when the staff is more hospitable, the services provided there give them more comfort
However, patient satisfaction and experience can be achieved only when healthcare providers comprehend with the needs of their patients. As experts say, the successful application of medical knowledge depends on what patients think and feel about the medical personnel and the hospital/ diagnostic centre. How many radiologists, diagnostic centres and hospitals in India with a special focus on women truly know what their patients want?
Express Healthcare in this article presents an opinion poll of what women patients want when they seek for diagnostic imaging services. Likewise, we also come up with a list of few strategies that have been adopted by leading radiologists, hospitals and diagnostic centres to provide best services and build trust among their women patients.
What women want?
Women have unique healthcare needs or issues that require special focus. When women seek for radiology services their needs would differ depending upon the medical condition, mental condition and their preferences. For example, the diagnostic care requirements of a woman undergoing an ultrasound test during pregnancy would differ from a woman getting a HIFU ultrasound done to check for a fibroid. Similarly, requirements of a woman undergoing a mammography examination would differ from a woman getting a CT or MRI done. To understand these requirements, we approached 25 women in the age group of 20- 60 years from metro cities such as Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Kolkata (five to six women from each city) to understand their expectations from radiology service providers. These are women who have undergone ultrasound examinations, X-ray, mamography examinations, CT and MRI examinations on at leastthree to five occasions in their life time. We set few parameters for this opinion poll based on factors such information flow, transparency maintained, customisation services, patient engaging, hygiene etc., and asked women to rank them as per their priority.
As per the opinion poll, around 23 women opine that precision in diagnosis is a must and so, it becomes the most important criteria while choosing these services. Technology stands second in the priority list. 22 women said that they believe that advanced medical technology used at the radiology centres will help improving precision of diagnosis. Cleanliness and hygiene, is third on the list. 20 women said that that hygiene factors cannot be compromised while seeking diagnostic services. Next on the list is health communications received by radiologists. 19 women say that they prefer to go to a radiologist who explains to them the process and results of the diagnostic test. The other priority is hospitality services as 16 women said their trust in a radiology centre is built when the staff is more hospitable, the services provided there give them more comfort.
Precision in diagnosis: This is one of the major factors that determines patient satisfaction. Experts are of the opinion that when diagnostic centres provide accurate information, patients receive better medical care. It also reduces medical errors in turn improving patient outcomes.
Health communications: we are currently living in an age where our healthcare system is constantly evolving. Patient today are loaded with a lot of information which also causes them to have several questions in their minds, especially women who seek diagnostic services for medical conditions such as cancers, pregnancy etc. Proper health communication can reduce fear and make these patients feel comfortable. Health communication includes having empathy and respect for the patient, a willingness to explain things in a way the patient can understand, and taking the time to listen. Putting these principles into practice can lead to increased patient satisfaction, improved outcomes, and better management of patient expectations.
Hospitality services and comfort: In an ideal radiology department focussing on women patients, every employee should focus on creating successful outcomes and surpassing patient expectations. A courteous attendant and a helpful technician can make a woman patient feel at ease. Similarly, a radiologist who spends time speaking with patients and explains their study results will add value to this service.
Cleanliness and hygiene: Hygiene is of paramount importance when it comes to women-related healthcare services. It is the first impression of any healthcare organisation and so becomes a vital component of creating patient experience.
Technology used: This is built over a period of time and is the culmination of the above mentioned factors.
We now have a general idea of what women patients from the metros require when it comes to diagnostic imaging services. Moving forward we then approached some leading radiologists and diagnostic centres in India, to understand whether the industry comprehend with the needs of their patients. Based on the their feedback we derived that the following strategies are being adopted to cater to their women patients.
Sensitivity training programmes and patient counselling facilities: As the number of healthcare providers increase, patients have a wide range of choice available to them. This also means that there is an increasing competition for these service providers. Keeping this in mind, it’s important to not only maintain patient relation, but attract new ones. That’s where good patient service comes in. But part of the effort comes from identifying who, exactly, the customers are, as well as how best to service their needs. Acting upon this aspect, Bengaluru-based Cytecare Hospital group, has introduced a sensitivity training programme for the employees. According to the spokesperson of the hospital, the group has designed all their hospitals to be patient-centric. For this reason, the Cytecare has evolved a sensitivity training for all our patient-facing staff to understand how to talk to patients and in particular, women patients. They also have in-house counsellors to provide emotional support to patients, as they undergo treatment. The spokesperson reveals that Cytecare has ensured that there is a woman nurse or technician in the room during examination (if by a male doctor). They encourage patient’s to voice their thoughts and concerns, and provide feedback on how to better the patient experience. Additionally, they follow standard safety procedures of ensuring that women are examined for pregnancies prior to undergoing any diagnostic imaging procedure that may involve radiation.
Dr Anisha S Tandon,Consultant – Radiology & Imaging, DMRD, DNB, Paediatric Radiology Fellowship (USA), Department of Radiology & Imaging, Sakra World Hospital and Dr Amitha Vikrama KS, Consultant – Interventional Radiology & Imaging, MDRD, DNB (Radiology), Fellowship in Vascular & Interventional Radiology, Department of Radiology & Imaging, Sakra World Hospital also stress upon the importance of patient interaction at their hospital and how radiologists go that extra mile to do so. They reveal that once the trust factor is established, both the patient and the doctor find it easy to perform the particular imaging procedure in detail. They further convery that at Sakra Hospital, prior to the imaging procedure radiologists speak to their patients on the aim of the diagnostic test and prepare them for the same.
On the same lines, Dr Vivek Chail from iCliniq also discloses that they have hired a patient counsellor who helps women patient with understanding the purpose of the diagnostic test and explains the results as well. Chipping in, Dr Chandrakant M Shetty, Professor and Head, Dept of Radiology, KJ Somaiya Hospital also informs that the hospital has a dedicated patient counsellor to cater to women.
Maintaining patient privacy: Dr Sunita Gopalan, Consultant Radiologist, Columbia Asia Hospitals says that one of the best ways to understand the needs of the patients is to talk to them. Another area is maintaining patient confidentialitywhich is also paramount in building the trust factor.
Customer service unit: Privacy is certainly an important criteria to build patient trust. Likewise frequent patient interaction often builds a doctor-patient relationship. Dr Sudhir Kumar Kale, Lead Consultant Radiology, Aster CMI Hospital, explains how his hospital does it. He says that they collect feedback from each patient. The hospital’s customer service co-ordinator and radiology manager interact with the patients for better understanding of their demands. They generally are more comfortable with female staff. The hospital has also created a women-friendly atmosphere within their radiology department. They have recruited dedicated women staff in front office, nursing and technical staff to enhance feel good experience. Most importantly, they interact with patients and guide them through imaging and procedures with care and attention. Also, We have plush waiting area, dedicated change rooms and rest rooms with female staff at all frontiers.
Comprehensive service models: Dr Govind Rajan, HOD, Radiology Services, Apollo Hospitals (Bangalore), personally feels women are more aware of their requirements when it come to their diagnostic needs. They expect effective treatments for their problems and are more open to accept certain inherent limitations. Like all human beings, they would prefer organ processing treatments over radical treatment, which is again possible with accurate diagnosis and high-end technologies. They also expect a comprehensive service mode where almost all facilities come under one roof. Therefore, Apollo hospitals, Bangalore has a comprehensive radiology clinic that caters to all their patient needs.
Power of feedback: Taking feedback from patient is extremely necessary for hospitals, diagnostic centres and for radiologists running private imaging services. This is the key to under the patients. Dr Sumer Sethi, MD, Sr Consultant Radiologist & CEO of TeleRad Providers informs that taking feedback and frequent online reviews from patients have helped his business to yield better returns.
This entire exercise has prompted me to consider the following trends:
Patients are driving healthcare models: Patients are becoming more and more vocal about their healthcare needs. With wider choice available, they have the privilege today to insist on the kind of services they prefer to have. From the 25 women we spoke to, it was extremely clear that these women are certain about their diagnostic needs and expectations from their healthcare providers. Surprisingly, they also speak of medical technology that can be used to make diagnostics imaging more accurate and prefer to visit a radiologists who use these technologies to conduct medical examinations. Off course, we have to take into account that these are learned women from leading metros of India. However, this was not the scenario 10-15 years ago. People were aware of good doctors, hospitals or diagnostic centres that provided better healthcare facilities but seldom spoke of medical technology. This indeed is a noteworthy change of mindset. it also reflects upon the growing awareness among patients about available medical technologies. Therefore, it can be positively said that healthcare in India is already in the era where patients are the key driver for healthcare business models.
The healthcare industry is moving towards providing value-based care: As mentioned above that healthcare business models are being designed keeping in mind target patient. Healthcare providers are now zeroing on individual needs of their patients, whether preventive, chronic or acute. Hospitals and diagnostic centres are constituting patient care teams within their organisations that coordinates patient care, with help of technology that connects them with patients help them get the right care. Special services for women patients seeking diagnostic imaging is just one example of the same. What’s impressive about these services are that they drive innovative thinking and raise the bar of caregiving making healthcare not only a basis necessity but a value added service as well.