Why radiology should become more like McDonald’s

For years, I have been progressively beating a louder and louder drum — one where my colleagues know that I liken radiology to McDonald’s.

Most of the bad press out there, it seems to me, has to do with poor customer service. Our health care system is often inefficient, and delivers limited, incomplete care. The root of the problem, in my opinion, is that there aren’t enough doctors or hours in the day and many doctors may not have fully developed “customer service skills.” Doctors tend to be over-worked so that they often can only spend, at best, 15 minutes communicating vital information to each patient.

But when it comes to telling patients about major ailments such as cancer diagnoses, sometimes doctors fail miserably. I think we doctors can do a better job of communicating effectively and empathizing appropriately.

Why does McDonald’s succeed so well for so long? The hamburgers? The french fries? Perhaps. But they also uniformly deliver a product of similar quality with speed and efficiency, no matter where in the world you are. I’m always impressed that I can go into a McDonald’s in Paris, Rome or Chicago and get the same tasting hamburger and fries in about the same amount of time and with a friendly smile from the person handing them to me. Health care should do the same.

Physicians should deliver a product that is safe, clean, and similar with speed and accuracy. As a radiologist, I feel that our product can be delivered in this fashion with relative ease. In my field, turnaround times are key. Accuracy and quality of dictations are close seconds. It seems straight-forward to me, therefore, that my field will be best served if we deliver a product as accurately and rapidly as possible.

What happens then? Is this a money making commentary? No, though following the above recipe should yield more cookies, so to speak. But delivering quality radiology reports, in a timely and efficient manner, can only result in an improvement in health care delivery to patients.

In my radiology group, we pride ourselves on turnaround times of less than two hours for most reports. In this manner, the requesting physician will have the findings of the patient’s study and can quickly take any necessary action for their care. Communicating important, critical findings by calling the physician is also one aspect of customer service that I (and the American College of Radiology) feel is essential to offering and delivering good service.

Overall, good customer service in the medical field comes down to good communication, empathy and understanding. It’s not that difficult. It’s just that very few physicians receive any training in their early years to foster and develop those skills. It’s time that we focus on this aspect of health care delivery for the health and satisfaction of our patients.

Paul Dorio is an interventional radiologist who blogs at his self-titled site, Paul J Dorio, MD.

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