Public outreach for IR procedures: Is it nice or necessary?

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outreach
Theresa Caridi

Theresa Caridi is an interventional radiology advocate, and believes passionately in spreading awareness of minimally invasive, image-guided procedures to both potential patients and referrers. In July 2019, Caridi appeared on ABC 7 News WJLA, an ABC affiliate covering national and local news in Washington, DC, USA, where she talked about uterine fibroid embolization for Fibroid Awareness Month. Here, she describes why it is important for interventional radiologists to market themselves, and how individuals, as well as organisations like the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR), can best spread their message about what interventional radiology has to offer. outreach

Understanding interventional radiology (IR) as a specialty and descriptor has been a topic of much discussion over the last two decades, if not for even longer.1–5 The name itself has been questioned for its reductive nature, in that the term “interventional radiology” fails to explain the complexity and value of what we do.1 We interventional radiologists cannot always describe the type of doctor we are, so it is easy to see how our patients and referrers have a gap in understanding in what IR is and how we can help. It has even been speculated that IR cannot be easily understood because both the specialty and term are in the forefront of true interdisciplinary medicine—specifically the blending of image, body, and physician.1 Public outreach in the form of speaking/lectures, radio, media, or print marketing may help to provide clarity to both patients and referring physicians on treatment options provided by IR.

Additional factors play an important role in the lack of awareness of IR. As interventional radiologists, we may become involved in a patient’s treatment plan later than a primary specialty. Once the traditional specialties have offered what they can and failed, or are ruled out as an option due to a patient’s advanced disease, a referrer may think to involve an interventional radiologist, or a patient may ask for other options. Due to the diverse nature of our specialty, we lack the longstanding relationship that begins early in a patient’s life, such as that seen with a primary care physician or obstetrician/gynaecologist. Furthermore, interventional radiologists have knowledge of and treatments for the entire body, and are sometimes lost in the treatment algorithm because we are not the first specialty that comes to mind for a specific organ system. Lastly, there are many different types of IR practices, and the patient or referring physician may only be familiar with one—and this practice model may not be the one they are looking for.

A good marketing tool is one that derives traction from both patients and colleagues. One of the most effective ways that I have found to reach patients and referrers is through educational videos that demonstrate a physician’s knowledge, but perhaps more importantly also their character and disposition. When a patient comes in for consultation after having watched one of my educational videos, I get a sense that it has accelerated their comfort level and also their ability to speak about sensitive issues—this tends to be pretty valuable in a women’s health focused practice where a woman has spent her lifetime building a relationship with her gynaecologist, but has never met her interventional radiologist. This is one of the many challenges that we face.

Podcasts, particularly with video, can have a similar beneficial effect. Any type of video allows viewers to see the physician’s human side and allows for nuances that cannot be demonstrated in a social media snippet. It also seems a bit more credible than the average social media post. This is not to diminish the effect of social media, which has been shown to improve the transparency and accessibility of medicine.6 Social media can be very useful in promoting speaking engagements, radio, traditional media, or print marketing. But social medial must be used appropriately. Information that could identify a patient must be removed, including age and specifics about disease. Further, one must be careful not to give medical advice outside of suggesting a person get evaluated by a physician.7

I think most would agree that promoting IR in this manner is necessary, but it is time consuming. It takes institutional infrastructure and often an eager physician to get follow through. Fortunately, the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) is launching a national awareness and education campaign this fall—the Vision to Heal, Together—which takes a multipronged approach, with aspects that promote IR to patients and elements that market the discipline to referrers. Stay tuned and, in the meantime, do not be afraid to ask for help from your institution’s marketing team or to learn from an IR colleague who already has a successful marketing plan in place.

Theresa Caridi is an interventional radiologist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, DC, USA.

References:

  1. Iwai YA, Erinjeri JP, What’s in a Name: Is “Interventional Radiology” too Reductive? Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology (JVIR), JID—9203369.
  2. Becker G.J: Interventional radiology 2000 and beyond: back from the brink. JVIR 1999; 10: pp.681–687.
  3. Baerlocher MO, Asch MR, Puri G, Vellahottam A, Myers A, and Andrews A: Awareness of interventional radiology among patients referred to the interventional radiology department: A survey of patients in a large Canadian community hospital. JVIR 2007; 18: pp.633–637.
  4. Baum RA, and Baum SB: Interventional radiology: A half century of innovation. Radiology 2014; 273: pp.S75–S91.
  5. Baerlocher MO, and Asch MR: The future interventional radiologist: Clinician or hired gun? JVIR 2004; 15: pp.1,385–1,390.
  6. Pershad Y, Hangge PT, Albadawi H, Oklu RA, Social Medicine: Twitter in Healthcare. LID—E121 pii [LID—10.3390/jcm7060121 doi]. Journal of clinical medicine JID—101606588 PMC—PMC6025547 OTO—NOTNLM.
  7. Ahmed O, Jilani S, Ginsburg M, Hadied O, Tasse J, Loanzon R, et al. You Are What You Tweet: Navigating Legal Issues in Social Media for Interventional Radiologists. JVIR JID—9203369.

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