Comfort The comfort of the facilities is important for patients, especially in waiting areas. Welcoming and calming premises may help to reduce pre-imaging stress sometimes experienced by patients . Provision of adequate toilets, changing facilities and privacy are central to ensuring patient dignity is preserved.
Attentiveness The availability of staff to attend to patient's needs and provide support must be constant throughout the process. The sense of security felt by patients stems from prior explanations that have been provided, the patient’s consent to the imaging procedure, their confidence in the equipment being used, the presence and attentiveness of the staff, including the radiographers undertaking the examination for the patient, and where relevant, the supervising radiologist.
Reassurance Empathy, listening, patience and understanding are qualities that must be developed in all medical imaging teams, starting from the first person in contact with the patient, throughout the whole course of the examination, including waiting for results (if available). In many jurisdictions, the radiographer often interacts with the patient during their visit to the imaging department; the radiographer must provide a sense of safety, reassurance and empathy. It is imperative that radiologists recognise the importance of the radiographers’ role. The patient must feel that they are the focus of attention of care teams .
Explanations should be given throughout the examination, e.g. specific preparations for an examination, need for injection, radiographers’ expectations of the patient (e.g. mobility issues or frailty), updates on prolonged waiting times, the need for any further injection or any additional imaging with another modality, etc. By virtue of being close to the patient during the examination, radiographers have an essential role to play in providing these explanations.
Results The methods of delivery and timing of availability of results should be known by patients when booking the appointment. If results will not be immediately available, ideally the patient should be given either verbal or written notification of when they will receive the results. If result availability will be delayed, the reasons should be explained (for example, additional specialised advice required). Whenever possible, results should be available within a reasonable time frame . The radiologist is an appropriate person to discuss the patient’s medical imaging outcomes, imaging limitations (if any) and if required, the need for further investigation and additional specialised advice. Some patients’ results will be transmitted to them by the referring hospital physician, others by their general practitioner and increasingly through secure teleconsultation. Many patients feel that the radiologist who supervised their examination should communicate these results directly to them [14, 15]. Ideally, radiologists should endeavour to make themselves available to discuss results at the patient’s request; where possible, this should be organised by the radiologist, conveniently, directly after the examination [16, 17]. Alternative radiologist–patient consultations can be by telephone or by teleconsultation. Specific consultations for the delivery of results have been proposed . Such radiologist–patient consultations should ideally be coordinated with the referrer, to ensure consistent information provision to patients.
In an interventional context, patients must, of course, be informed of any problems that may occur as a result of the procedure, monitoring instructions, possible treatments and prescriptions to follow. Follow-up information sheets/leaflets should be given to the patient when they leave.
In some healthcare systems, unfortunately, patient–radiologist communication is either limited or does not exist, which may result in radiologists seeming ‘invisible’ [19, 20]. This is generally not related to unwillingness to engage, but instead often due to high volume of patients and/or workforce issues that can result in insufficient time being available to see patients .
The lack of contact with radiologists may have a detrimental effect on patient–radiologist communication, as many patients may be keen to have face-to-face discussions. Direct communication between radiologists and patients is also beneficial to radiologists, enhancing their appreciation of patients’ specific presentations and concerns.
Where possible, medical imaging reports should use lay/patient-friendly terminology and simplified patient reports should be provided in plain language more suited to a patient’s understanding, as opposed to scientific vocabulary that is understood only by medical professionals [8, 9].
Safety Patients should feel confident that they will be safe when attending a medical imaging examination or image-guided procedure, confident that they can access high-quality health care, avoiding adverse effects and inaccurate or delayed diagnoses. The COVID-19 pandemic has further emphasised that it is critical that radiology departments follow official guidance to keep patients safe.