Best Care in Action: Face-to-face communication improves radiology care

Oct 19, 2016, 10:13 AM by KirstiAnn Clifford
Dr. Walser
Face-to-face communication is important to UTMB’s Chair of Radiology, Dr. Eric Walser.

Since the opening of the Jennie Sealy Hospital, Walser has made it a daily habit to trek from his office in the University Health Clinics building to the new hospital, where he makes a stop on most floors to talk directly with physicians, nursing staff and patients.

“When people think of radiologists, they think of a person sitting in a dark room studying digital X-rays all day, but I want to make sure radiology stays clinically relevant and involved with patient care, even though we are not nearby,” said Walser.

His goal is to make sure each patient gets the right tests done at the right time—and building in-person relationships with staff and patients and their families has played a large role in making that happen.

One recurring issue Walser wanted to tackle is patient length of stay. Sometimes, patients may wait days for a simple test to be done before they can be discharged. Not only is that inefficient and costly, it can lead to complaints from patients and doctors alike. Walser now makes a point of visiting each floor of Jennie Sealy Hospital to ask what is needed to expedite patient flow.

“Most nurses weren’t used to having a radiologist come up to them directly and ask them what they need,” said Walser, who has radiology residents accompany him on his rounds. “Now, they are happy when they see me coming. The face-to-face communication has made everyone’s jobs more productive and there’s a lot less frustration and miscommunication. And now that all the nurses have gotten to know me, they know how to contact me and will text me if something urgent comes up.”

Nicole Young, a nurse manager for Internal Medicine, said Walser’s strategy works. “It’s so great that he comes through here on a regular basis,” said Young. “He facilitates these patients that are ready to be discharged and are just waiting for tests like a cardiac echo or an MRI, and he’ll talk with patients and their families if they have any questions or concerns.”

In addition to his daily visits to hospital units in Jennie Sealy, Walser also has proactively set up a phone number (409-772-4MRI) to expedite MRI appointments for patients. Hearing complaints that patients were having to wait months for an MRI, Walser found there was a problem with the scheduling system. The phone number was set up so patients can call and talk to a real person on the other end of the line who can schedule appointments in a timely manner.

“It’s worked out well, but I’ve got a lot more to do,” said Walser. “I was trained at Mayo Clinic, so Best Care is simple to me: The needs of the patient come first. Whatever is best for the patient is best for all of us.”