RSNA 2017: Patients want improved access to images, reports, meetings with radiologists

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Radiologists are no longer only the diagnostician’s doctor. With increased transparency in healthcare, patients are provided with greater access to their radiology reports. Patients are taking an active role in their health—and a flash drive of images from their radiologist simply is not good enough.

For example, in an article published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology in December 2016, author Lee Christoph I. Lee, MD, MSHS, of the department of radiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, et al. found that 64 percent of patients desired copies of their radiology reports, and 85 percent wanted to see the images. Most patients also wanted detailed explanation of the reports in writing and the option of accessing the full report.

What does this mean for today’s radiologist? Tessa S. Cook, MD, PhD, assistant professor of radiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, discussed the implications with attendees on Nov. 28 at RSNA 2017 in Chicago.

“Patient and family-centered care is a very personal, a very non-technical interaction that all of us as radiologists are increasingly being challenged to do more of,” Cook said.

A survey generated by the Institute for Patient and Family-Centered Care (PFCC) asked patients, patient advocates, referring physicians and radiologists to respond with resources radiology practices can use to better align themselves with the principles of the PFCC, including respect and dignity, information sharing, participation and collaboration. Each group was able to respond with expectations and challenges or a “wish list” of what they would like from their radiologists.

Respondents said they had an expectation a radiologist would communicate findings directly to them and that they along with the referring physician can give feedback of the usefulness of the interpretation. They also expressed desire to obtain an automatically generated summary at the end of the report that would give them a bigger picture of what the interpretation meant for their care.

Some of the radiologists in the group ensured their phone numbers appeared at the bottom of the report and they also said they would love the opportunity to spend in-person time with patients to show and explain images. However, they cited the biggest obstacles are limitations in the current workflow. Support from administrators is needed.

To address some of the problems such as readability of reports, Cook and colleagues developed a pilot program called patient-oriented radiology reporter, or PORTER.

“What we wanted to do was take the actual report test and annotate it so that we would provide a lot of additional data and information for patients as they navigated through the report,” Cook said. “That would hopefully add better understanding of hopefully what was contained there.”

Patients were given the website and access code to view annotated reports. The exact content of the original radiology report had been written by an interpreting radiologist. Many terms were hyperlinked for more understandable definitions. Some concepts had corresponding illustrations. Overall, patients responded positively.

“It’s safe for us to acknowledge that our patients want better access to radiology images, reports and the radiologists themselves,” Cook said. “And we can use a lot of existing informatics technology to facilitate this, but we still have a lot of work to do in all of these areas for our patients.”