New platform creates patient-friendly radiology reports

Patients may soon have a much easier time understanding the details of their own radiology reports, thanks to a platform presented by Seong Oh, MD, a musculoskeletal fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Radiology, and colleagues at the American College of Radiology’s ACR 2015 Annual Meeting.

The platform, called Patient-Oriented ReporTER (PORTER), was designed as a response to the increasing prevalence of online patient portals and various online medical resources. Patients are being asked to access their own information from home, Oh and his colleagues recognized, but radiology reports are still being written as if they’ll only ever be read by someone with a medical background.

“We know that the radiology report itself has traditionally had the referring physician as the audience, so there’s a lot of technical terms in the radiology report—a lot of medical jargon—that we feel patients have difficulty understanding,” Oh told in a phone interview.

This is where PORTER comes into play. PORTER takes the radiologist’s findings and helps translate it so that patients with no medical knowledge can fully understanding the information. Key words are underlined, and users can hover their cursor over those words to make the definition pop up. Click “axial,” for instance, and PORTER will say, “An anatomical plane that divides the body into head and feet portions.” Visual aids are also provided, including charts, graphics and a photograph of the radiologist completing the report. An example of PORTER in action can be found here.

One of the biggest advantages to patients understanding their own radiology reports, Oh said, is that it empowers patients to ask the right questions when they meet with their referring physicians.

“Usually, patients have to wait to get their results, and when they get their results, they may not know what the report means,” Oh said. “We can’t replace a conversation with a doctor, and we aren’t trying to do that with this tool at all, but at the very least, we’d like to educate those patients who want more information, so they can ask questions to their referring provider and hopefully it will lead to better management of their health care.”

Oh said PORTER is still in the early stages, but a prototype has been fully developed to be used with knee MRI reports at Penn Medicine. In the near future, patients will be asked to use PORTER at home to review their own reports and then complete a detailed survey about their experience.