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Radiology Life • February 2017

19 / ADVANCE FOR RADIOLOGY LiFE | PRACTICE MANAGEMENT “If the radiologist decides that there is immediate risk for the patient, the referring physician must be notified.” Consult the Referring Physician If the radiologist decides that there is immediate risk for the patient, the referring physician must be notified. As physicians themselves, radiologists have the same professional obligations to patients as the referring physician. According to medical ethicist Georg Marckmann, MD, MPH, a member of a 2013 panel hosted by the European Congress of Radiology (ECR), these obligations include “respecting patients’ well-being, using the best available diagnostic and therapeutic interventions, and minimizing harm, respecting patient autonomy and contributing to social justice.”2 Even if the radiologist doesn’t know the patient as well as the referring physician, it’s important to remember that the patient still trusts the radiologist to make the best decision regarding treatment. While medical culture tends to deter healthcare professionals from confronting each other regarding disagreements in treatment, it’s crucial for them to speak up if they feel that something isn’t right. Radiologists might struggle even more than their colleagues when it comes to voicing opinions about patients’ treatment, as they aren’t necessarily as familiar with the cases as the referring physicians. However, it’s important for radiologists to remember that as physicians themselves, they can — and should — expect their opinions to be regarded with the same respect as those of the referring physicians. When radiologists decide to speak up about a disagreement over a scan, they shouldn’t be nervous — in fact, the referring physician may appreciate the input, and the conversation could strengthen the professional relationship between the two. An Irish radiologist at the 2013 ECR panel recommended, “If you need to communicate with your clinician, then just pick up the phone,” and the panel’s clinician agreed.2 “You may have evidence from your own expertise or literature showing that the physician’s clinical question may be better answered by an alternative test, technique or other alteration that you may be able to suggest and present to them,” said Glaser. “When this is positively received, you can then alter the patient’s test to everyone’s satisfaction.” Despite the pressure that radiologists face not to disagree with referring physicians, it’s pivotal for radiologists to defend themselves and their patients’ health. If patients can’t trust their doctors to always do what is in their best interest, who can they trust? Sarah Sutherland is a staff writer at ADVANCE. Contact: ssutherland@ advanceweb.com References 1. Radiology Quality Institute. Diagnostic accuracy in radiology: defining a literature-based benchmark. http://www.radisphereradiology.com/wp-content/uploads/Diagnostic-Accuracy in-Radiology. 2012: 1-9. 2. McCall, B. A 3-piece jigsaw: patient, radiologist, clinician. But do they fit together? AuntMinnie.com. http://www.auntminnie.com/index.aspx?sec=ser&sub- =def&pag=dis&ItemID=102795. 2013. Related Content This article discusses the possible ramifications of errors in interpretation and diagnosis. For further insight on errors in radiology, read “New Study Finds that Diagnostic Errors are Not Outliers” at RadiologyLife. advanceweb.com FEBRUARY 2017


Radiology Life • February 2017
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