May 2017

It’s all about the patient

ESR Patient Advisory Group provides ECR attendees with a profound understanding of the patient’s journey in clinical radiology, as well as pros and cons of the big data trend


The European Society of Radiology’s Patient Advisory Group (ESR-PAG) was established by the ESR in 2013 to take its communication with patient groups to another level. The goal of the ESR-PAG is to bring together patients, the public, and imaging professionals in order to positively influence advances in the field of medical imaging to the benefit of patients in Europe.

The ESR-PAG is co-chaired by Nicola Bedlington, Secretary General of the European Patient’s Forum (EPF) and Michael Fuchsjäger, chair of the ESR Communication and External Affairs Committee, and includes members from several disease-specific patient groups, namely European Federation of Crohn’s Ulcerative Colitis Association (EFCCA), European Federation of Neurological Associations (EFNA), European Prostate Cancer Coalition (Europa Uomo), Pelvic Pain Support Network (PPSN) and the Stroke Alliance for Europe (SAFE). In addition to these patient organisations and the ESR, the European Federation of Radiographer Societies (EFRS) is also a member of the ESR-PAG.

The European Congress of Radiology (ECR) held in Vienna from 1-5 March 2017 again provided a platform for patients and professionals to discuss strategies for improved patient safety and quality of care in clinical radiology and to present the way forward in developing personalised medicine focusing on big data and data management.

The ECR 2017 featured two well-attended sessions organised by the ESR-PAG which enjoyed high interest by the congress delegates and featured lively discussions between panellists and the audience. In addition, the ESR-PAG launched its first leaflet at ECR. The EuroSafe Imaging Café themed “Together for Patient Safety” was a popular place for meeting and networking. Plenty of material on EuroSafe Imaging’s activities including information on the ESR-PAG were distributed to all visitors to raise awareness and to promote quality and safety in medical imaging for the benefit of patients.

The session on “Improving patient safety and quality of care in clinical radiology” focused on how to improve patient safety and quality of care through audit and standards and provided concrete examples of best practice on implementing these standards in the radiology department.

To start with, Dr Barry Kelly, chair of the ESR Audit & Standards subcommittee, presented memorably how audit works with the example “What percentage of male radiologists wear trousers at work?” and thus he explained that audit simply means “measuring anything against a standard”. Thereafter, he focused on the “doctor in difficulty” and the “doctor as a patient” making clear that “we only see the tip of the iceberg which is the behaviour, but not the underlying influencing factors, like health problems, workload, private issues, working culture, training and education among others”.

Donna Walsh, Executive Director of the European Federation of Neurological Associations (EFNA), pointed out that “communication is the corner stone of patient satisfy and safety”. She noted that written communication in the form of reports, which have traditionally been exchanged between doctors only, have to be adjusted to reflect the need for patient empowerment so that understanding findings does not require an advanced medical background. 

Erik Briers, speaking on behalf of the European Prostate Cancer Coalition (Europa Uomo), focused on the patient journey through the department. He pointed out that radiology departments should have general and specific information in different levels of literacy available and they should define basic procedures on how to handle questions from patients and next of kin to help patients overcome fear.

To complete the session, Dr Dominique Carrié, a radiologist from Toulouse, France, presented the patient satisfaction questionnaire prepared by the ESR-PAG. He pointed out that “if we wish to practice radiology close to the patient, then it is necessary to evaluate their needs and concerns”.

The second session was organised around the topic “Big data – data management, standardisation, access and protection” to understand the importance for personalised medicine in radiology.

First, Prof. Peter Mildenberger, chair of the ESR Professional Issues and Economics in Radiology Subcommittee, provided an overview of European developments. He pointed out that new developments in medical imaging provide new opportunities, but also generate a lot of different data, which require more sophisticated work than conventional x-ray or CT.

Nicola Bedlington, Secretary General of the European Patient’s Forum (EPF) and co-chair of the ESR-PAG, presented the patient perspective on big data and noted that there is an increasing drive to improve collection and use of patients’ data in order to achieve better, more sustainable healthcare and advance health research. She highlighted that “the only way to do this in a meaningful and valuable way is together with patients”.

Erik Briers pointed out that data collection is in the interest of patients, as they want better care and quality of life for themselves and future patients, and data sharing contributes to personalised care and precision medicine. However, quality of data is a problem and standardisation is absolutely needed.

Prof. James Brink, chair of the American College of Radiology’s Board of Chancellors, concluded the session with a US example. He pointed out that international image sharing networks with robust, clean image data sets are needed to enable research in image data science and subsequent clinical application. Thereafter he focused on decision support for radiologists. He clearly noted that “if all radiologists apply the same algorithms to the same imaging scenarios, then variation in radiologists’ reports will be reduced”.

If you want to listen to the recorded ESR-PAG sessions visit ECR Online (access is free of charge, but pre-registration is required).