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State of The Modality: Integrated Communication for Better Clinical Care

The role of medical physicists and their value to Radiology Departments can be under-appreciated because often their work products are filled with numbers, calculations, tables, and plots that can easily be dismissed by simply looking for a “pass” or “fail” result. “There is much valuable content and insight in physics reports,” says Ehsan Samei, the chief Imaging Physicist at Duke, “however, it is the reality of current workloads that many stakeholders do not have time to adequately comprehend these reports.” Duke’s diagnostic medical imaging group seeks to address this by bringing together all factions of their clinical imaging team including department leadership, radiologists, administrators, technologists, and technical staff around a common mission.

In the Duke approach, an annual State of The Modality meeting that is coordinated by imaging physicists brings all stakeholders together to address equipment statuses, quality improvement implementations, and targeted goals for the future. The meeting is held monthly, focuses on a single modality, and rotates through modalities during the year. The topics include the baseline performance of the equipment including active and potential issues, accreditation needs, and quality control trends. The second focus is protocol optimization informed by system performance. That topic is followed by operational monitoring and educational needs and plans.

“The SOM is an excellent mechanism to bring all department stakeholders together; review baseline, prospective, and retrospective data; learn from other clinical colleagues; and illustrate the value-add of medical physicists,” says Joshua Wilson a Duke medical physicist. “As physicists, by understanding how the equipment is being used for patient care, we can better target our measurements and make our evaluations more clinically relevant,” says Wilson. “The tools, phantoms, and geometries we use, although important, are already artificial compared to patients,” says Wilson. “If the way we test the system does not represent clinical use, then the results and summary assessments we issue may not be useful in clinical practice.”

Physics

In a large academic hospital with numerous vendors, models, and software represented, maintaining a thorough, current knowledge base is hard. “As medical physicists, we can help our colleagues by evaluating new technologies, discussing a vendor’s marketing material in laymen’s terms, and providing on-going education about equipment usage that ultimately benefits patients,” says Wilson.