06/09/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Why Collaboration Is Key -- Recommend, Require and Reinforce

Radiologists play a pivotal role in healthcare but typically stay behind the scenes. Radiologists collaborate with referring physicians and provide insights into patients' conditions, suggest appropriate means to further evaluate a patient's conditions, and monitor conservative and/or surgical treatment. Occasionally, radiologists also treat using image guidance.

The courts have increasingly been recognizing the significance of the radiologist and that they are a critical part of the healthcare team and thereby, responsible to ensure that imaging examination results are acknowledged by the referring physician.

Failure to communicate radiologic findings to referring physicians is a factor in 80% of malpractice suits for radiologists (in 60%, the findings were never directly communicated to the referring physician) and the average payment to plaintiffs is approximately $1.9 million per case.

At Hospital for Special Surgery we believe strongly in collaboration between radiology and the clinicians. Our radiologists are not hidden in a dark room reading images all day long. They spend time speaking with patients and collaborating with the referring physician and other healthcare professionals on key imaging findings and providing recommendations for additional diagnostic imaging and/or treatment options.

As a patient you have the right to see the results from any medical study, imaging or otherwise, that has been performed on you. When having an imaging examination you should ask the radiologist or technologist when the report will be ready and if the radiologist will be collaborating with your referring physician on the findings. In most instances, the imaging report is best discussed with your referring physician as the referring physician has a more complete understanding of your full medical situation. While you can ask to speak with the radiologist directly, keep in mind that the radiologist will likely want your referring physician to answer most of your questions, as they relate to the treatment or next steps for the findings revealed on the images.

Recommend, require and reinforce with your healthcare providers the importance of collaboration with imaging and other medical specialists as appropriate for your specific condition. Collaboration will help to ensure a quality experience and you will be more in the know as it relates to your condition and in a better position to accept or question the recommended treatment.