By A.J. Gunn, MD, Assistant Professor, Division of Interventional Radiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Rachel F. Oser, MD, Associate Professor, Division of Interventional Radiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Most interventional radiologists recognize that our specialty faces an obstacle when it comes to explaining our practice to other medical specialties and the public. It’s not easy to summarize the breadth and diversity of our practice into a single sentence and the problem is further complicated by varying local practice patterns. A lack of awareness about the minimally invasive options provided by interventional radiology means that patients aren’t being educated about all of their treatment options. One of the clearest examples of this discrepancy is uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). SIR conducted a survey of approximately 1,200 women in the United States as part of its Fibroid Fix campaign. The poll found that 62 percent of respondents had never heard of UFE and 20 percent of respondents considered a hysterectomy as the only available treatment option.
At UAB Medicine, our group sought to increase the availability of this procedure to women in the greater Birmingham area. We partnered with our hospital system’s marketing team to achieve this goal. They suggested identifying a patient willing to share her fibroid story as a way of engaging a broader audience. The short segment they produced was featured on the UAB Medicine homepage and distributed via social media. A local television station saw the segment and invited us to do a short on-air segment about UFE. Additionally, we worked on establishing an IR presence online by highlighting UFE on the UAB Medicine fibroid page, creating an IR-specific website, developing a podcast for the UAB Medicine website, and a dedicated effort to social media (Twitter: @uab_ir).
The increased profile of UFE as a treatment option has resulted in our local OB/GYN group reaching out to us to establish an improved referral pattern for fibroid patients. Moreover, they’ve extended an invitation for us to present grand rounds to their group regarding UFE and to discuss the procedure during their annual CME conference for area physicians, mid-level providers and nurses. This has resulted in a clear increase in referrals for UFE, and we hope to work with our colleagues in the near future to create a multidisciplinary center of excellence for fibroid care at UAB. As these events occur, we plan on continuing to share our experiences with the larger IR community.
We have approximately 20 years’ worth of data in support of UFE, including multiple randomized, controlled clinical trials. It’s important for our specialty and our patients to be proactive in educating our colleagues and communities. Hopefully, our experience can provide insights and ideas for your own practices.