Partnerships Yield Best Patient Care
2013 RSNA President Sarah S. Donaldson, M.D., knows how demanding it is to practice medicine these days, with calls to make medicine ever more accurate, safe and effective. However, she said, all physicians—and radiologists in particular—must still find time to form and nurture partnerships with one another.
"If radiologists want to participate in the practice of medicine today, we must participate in multidisciplinary teams and accept responsibility for patient care," said Dr. Donaldson, who will open RSNA 2013 with her President's Address, "The Power of Partnership" today at 8:30 a.m. in Arie Crown Theater. Dr. Donaldson is the Catharine and Howard Avery Professor of Radiation Oncology at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, Calif. She also serves as the associate director of the radiation oncology residency program at Stanford Hospital and Clinics and is chief of the radiation oncology service at Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.
Dr. Donaldson used the example of tumor boards and conferences, where other medical specialties are routinely represented but radiology may not consistently be in attendance. "While radiologists may feel they can't free up personnel to participate in every clinic, conference, and tumor board, they must do so. To succeed in today's health care environment, we must be part of the team." Traditional expectations, attitudes and behaviors, as well as technological innovations, all have influenced the isolation of radiologists from other healthcare providers, Dr. Donaldson said, but to resist this isolation and embrace team-based medicine promotes collaborative research programs, augments one's expertise and builds careers. "Professional interdependence promotes innovation and adds value to our collective endeavors," Dr. Donaldson said.
While increased partnerships are possible with a spectrum of stakeholders in industry, government, education, research and certification, the most important focus of teamwork is patient care, Dr. Donaldson said. "The physician/patient bond that is well-developed in oncology, serves as a model for all of radiology," she said. "When diagnostic radiologists are truly represented as a part of a patient care team, patients will start to appreciate the value of their radiologist. As radiologists we must change our current culture and promote multidisciplinary team medicine.
"When we commit ourselves to focusing on the care of our patients and becoming their partners, the patients will come to understand our contribution to diagnosis and treatment, and will become our advocates," Dr. Donaldson added.
While she considers her partnership-promoting message is relevant to all radiologists regardless of career level, Dr. Donaldson said she is particularly passionate about influencing young, new physicians. "I can tell you from the perspective of someone who has been there, that the focus on the patient is of primary importance. You have to care about meeting patients and meeting their families. That is what makes it so much fun to be a physician—it's why one gets out of bed in the morning."
The pressure to make medicine safer and more effective and efficient are very real, not only in the U.S. but around the globe, Dr. Donaldson said, but these challenges are also opportunities for discovery. "It is important to be positive," she said. "Even though it may be tough, it is ever so gratifying."