Diagnostic Imaging and Patient Choice

Peter Harrison 120 x 100

Peter Harrison

In the first of our guest blogs, Peter Harrison, Managing Director of Siemens Healthcare Sector, talks about how patient choice is driving a requirement for transparency of clinical performance.

The prevalence of internet usage has had a profound impact on patients’ engagement with their own health. Ask any GP and they will tell you stories of patients presenting to them with a confident (often inaccurate) self diagnosis of their conditions based upon internet research. While I am sure that this can frequently be unhelpful, surely the net impact of patients taking more interest in their health must be celebrated?

The internet has empowered consumers. Parents can now easily check Ofsted reports to establish the highest performing schools, and consumer guides before making purchasing decisions. The writing is on the wall—patients and carers will increasingly (and appropriately) position themselves as healthcare consumers and will demand the information to make informed choices on healthcare provision. GPs will provide counsel, but increasingly, patients and carers will also seek direct access to information. We are already starting to see greater transparency of clinical performance at a surgeon level. A good example can be found at the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery website (http://www.scts.org), where risk-adjusted mortality rates can be viewed down to discrete surgeons, set against a scatter graph plot of their contemporaries.

I anticipate that a similar trend will apply to diagnostic imaging. Consumer demand will drive increased transparency of performance and a range of measures to enable patients and carers to make more informed decisions when exercising choice of provider. Those measures will likely extend to facets of modality performance that support accurate diagnosis (such as spatial and temporal resolution), but I also expect patients to be take a greater interest in wider facets of the imaging experience, such as safety and comfort. When considering modalities that utilise ionising radiation, patients may well want to understand what dose they are likely to receive during a scan. Not unreasonable, but there will also be a responsibility to help patients understand that the radiology team will need to appropriately balance minimisation of dose with the diagnostic quality to ensure appropriate specificity and sensitivity. Perhaps patients will want to establish what dose-reducing technologies are available within the imaging department and the extent to which the technologies are appropriately deployed?

Beyond traditional clinical quality and safety, issues of accessibility will also be of interest, with respect to both waiting times and bariatric considerations. What kind of experience might they expect with regards to patient care and comfort?

As the NHS adopts greater plurality of service provision and extends choice of provider to patients, successful imaging service providers will seek to differentiate themselves by affording due consideration to equipment selection and standards of service. I expect that those who are sensitive to these dynamics will be those who thrive and deliver a sustainable service, dependent upon both clinical referral and patient choice.

Peter Harrison is Managing Director, Siemens Healthcare sector, UK

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