Once barely considered among department priorities, patient comfort is increasingly viewed as central to growing an imaging organization’s value, reputation and, most important, ability to deliver longitudinally integrated care for better patient outcomes.
In order to improve the patient experience, we must recognize that patients often present to the radiology department in a state of vulnerability. Many come to the exam with little knowledge of what to expect. Additionally, they experience stress and anxiety related to the imaging procedure itself, and apprehension about what it may reveal. Image quality can be partly reflective of a patient’s ability to comply with the needs of the equipment – lying still in an enclosed space or holding breath for the required amount of time. Thus, ensuring a relaxed and comfortable environment is more than just a nice thing to do for the patient: rather, it is fundamental to the acquisition of high-quality diagnostic images.
Beyond negatively impacting workflow and department financial goals, compromised images and rescans may adversely affect a patient’s health status. From a clinical perspective, my years of experience in MR have taught me that stress-related behaviors can and do compromise imaging test results or, worse, negatively impact the delivery of timely diagnosis and appropriate care. Improving quality in diagnostic imaging requires that we fully understand these stress-inducing aspects of each individual’s experience, a seemingly obvious equation that can get lost in our efforts to expedite the examination process.