To more fully engage with patients, radiologists are going where their patients are: online.
Radiologists at private practices, hospitals and academic settings are responding to consumers’ increasing reliance on the Internet by continually expanding their websites and presence on social media like Facebook and Twitter.
Electronic media are a great way to share news and information on imaging services and extend the brand of the institution. In addition to using the Internet for one-way communication, administrators and marketing experts are using a variety of tools to increase interactivity on their websites—from posting patient testimonials and videos to adding online scheduling and patient satisfaction surveys.
Statistics show radiology is headed in the right direction. According to the Pew Research Center, online resources have become a significant source of information for Americans. A national telephone survey of 3,000 adults conducted by the center’s 2010 Pew Research Internet & American Life Project revealed that:
Last year, more than 82,000 users visited Massgeneralimaging.org, one of two websites managed by Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Radiology Department to schedule an appointment or learn about the latest advances in medical imaging.
The most often visited pages are those that describe the hospital’s imaging procedures and offer information on advances in medical imaging, as well as the ‘find a doctor’ feature, according to Kristen L. Dean, director of marketing for the hospital’s radiology department. For example, type in ‘3-D mammography’ on Google and the MGH page on breast tomosynthesis regularly comes up in the top results of organic searches.
“The online information and personal stories help connect the dots for patients on the vital roles radiology and imaging can play in guiding their treatment decisions and getting them healthy,” Dean said.
Using Facebook and Twitter allows MGH Radiology to be more topical and conversational in a format designed to both inform and elicit feedback. Recent Facebook posts included updates on the conditions of Boston Marathon bombing patients, information on the department’s child life specialist dedicated to helping pediatric patients (which drew 13 comments) and the department’s response to a study in The Lancet about children and CT scans, which drew 590 Web page views.
At St. Paul Radiology in Minnesota, Stpaulradiology.com emphasizes both convenience and service. In addition to allowing patients to download instructions on procedure preparation or pay a bill, the site also gives consumers the opportunity to pose a medical question to a staff radiologist.
“Our ‘Ask an Expert’ feature has been a big hit,” said John E. Messerschmidt, director of practice development at St. Paul Radiology. “We typically receive about one to two questions a day. Depending on the specific clinical question raised, the question will be directed to the most appropriate radiologist. People appreciate getting a response directly from a radiologist.”
St. Paul Radiology, which gets 7,000 hits a month, also uses its website to help assess patient satisfaction and allow patients to share their experiences with others. Within 24 hours of leaving a St. Paul Radiology imaging center, patients who share their email address receive a short electronic survey about their experience. The survey includes questions on how the patient was greeted, the scheduling and check-in processes and the likelihood the patient would recommend and/or return to the imaging centers for future needs. If any survey responses do not meet the patient’s expectations, the practice’s operations director is consulted for follow-up.
“Our patients are in a very unique position to offer us valuable insight and perspective to help guide us in being patient-driven,” Messerschmidt said.
Through the online survey as well as a feedback form located on the website, patients can share comments about their visit which are then posted (with permission and without names) on the site’s popular “Our Patients Speak” page.
“Patients like seeing the comments,” Messerschmidt said. “We’ve been getting phenomenal reviews. Ninety-eight percent of patients are pleased with our service.”
At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Radiology website, Radiology.ucla.edu, which serves a health system with two major hospitals and outpatient and imaging centers, online content complements the department’s extensive community outreach activities.
“Twenty to 30 percent of our patients come from outside the L.A. area and use the website to learn about UCLA,” said Brenda M. Izzi, R.N., M.B.A., chief administrative officer, UCLA Department of Radiology. “We provide patients with an overview of our services and use RadiologyInfo.org to provide additional detail.”
RadiologyInfo.org is the public information website developed by RSNA and the American College of Radiology (ACR) (see sidebar). UCLA’s radiology website, which is supported by university marketing staff, also features an entire page devoted to patient experiences and success stories.
One professionally produced patient video—complete with music accompaniment and an off-camera narrator—focuses on a new center of excellence at UCLA, a program to treat a condition called hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT). The four-minute video features interviews with patients, the center’s director and footage of a diagnostic MR imaging procedure.
Other videos on the website feature interviews with women talking about having uterine fibroids and their decision to seek treatment at UCLA, as well as patients recounting their experiences surviving a stroke and an aneurysm. Each vignette is accompanied by an explanation of the patient’s treatment along with images and diagrams.
Rounding out the Web page are links to news stories that have appeared on Los Angeles-area television stations featuring UCLA imaging services. “We get a lot of attention from local news shows looking for human interest stories,” Izzi said.
All three institutions are continually updating and enhancing their websites, adding new features and streamlining content to ensure functionality and ease of use.
A new branding effort is underway at UCLA, while MGH is preparing its first video patient testimonials for posting. “Video testimonials offer an authentic and balanced view of the patient experience that people can relate to,” Dean said. “A patient can say ‘I underwent this anxiety-producing procedure but I came out on the other side OK and I want to tell you about it.’”
At St. Paul Radiology, administrators will soon add new educational materials to the website—but only after first soliciting the opinions of former and potential patients through a new patient advisory board.
“We were making decisions on what education materials to put on our website and realized we were working in a silo,” Messerschmidt said. “We want to sit down with patient representatives and comb through materials that we provide pre-and post-imaging and ask, ‘What’s important to you? Do you have the resources you need?’
“It’s taking our patient-focused effort to another level.”
Massachusetts General Hospital: Massgeneralimaging.org offers patients information on imaging procedures, treatments and services, a ‘Find a Doctor’ feature and more.
St. Paul Radiology: Stpaulradiology.com allows patients to download instructions on procedure preparation or pay a bill, as well as pose a medical question to a staff radiologist, among other features.
The University of California, Los Angeles: Radiology.ucla.edu features professionally produced patient videos and interviews with patients talking about their conditions and experiences at UCLA, among other features.
RadiologyInfo.org: The RSNA-ACR (American College of Radiology) public information website serves as a resource for patients and a patient-communication tool for referring physicians. Online tools include more than 130 radiologic procedures and disease descriptions, the “Your Radiologist Explains” video series and a library of medical illustrations and anatomical drawings.
Radiology Cares: The Art of Patient-centered Practice (RadiologyCares.org): A library of online resources support RSNA’s Radiology Cares campaign designed to help radiology professionals become more meaningfully engaged in the patient experience and to help patients become more comfortable with their radiology experiences. Imaging professionals can also Take the Pledge to practice patient-centered radiology.
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