The case for structured reporting: 80% of ordering physicians say report readability should be fast, efficient

Referring physicians have distinct expectations and specific, but predominantly coherent preferences with regard to radiology reporting, according to the results of a survey issued to general practitioners and hospital-based physicians in Switzerland.

The survey results were published in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

“The visual presentation and content clarity of a radiology report do not always meet the expectations and needs of referring physicians,” wrote lead author Tobias Heye, MD, of the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland. “The concept of structured reporting is considered a potential solution to this problem. Structured reporting refers to the aim of improving radiology practice by implementing structured reporting standards to facilitate completeness and consistency in informational content and to offer uniformity in communication with referring physicians.”

While structured reporting is seen as the industry’s preferred method of radiological reporting, Heye and colleagues sought to assess the perception, preferences and expectations of recipients of radiology reports in terms of style and content.

More than 3,600 Swiss-based general practitioners and hospitalists were invited to participate in the survey, of which 570 participated. The participants were asked to rate, from a range of 1-10, four different layouts of radiology reports—text, structured text, tables, and images—in terms of comprehensibility and efficiency.

“The results of the survey show that referring physicians have distinct expectations based on their clinical needs and specific preferences with regard to radiology reporting,” the researchers wrote. “However, demanding the results may appear, the derived preferences are uniform across specialties, professional statuses, and types of practice.”

The most notable findings include:

  • Structured text (median, 8) and images (media, 7) rated the highest in terms of readability, time saving and helpfulness in communication with patients, compared with tables (median, 5) and unstructured text (median, 4).
  • 60 percent of participants responded that reports should give normal values as references, 50 percent said reports should give normal structures and 89 percent said reports should list additional findings in the summary.
  • Positive ratings for a confidence statement (54 percent), a list of differential diagnoses (89 percent) and a recommendation (66 percent) indicated an active radiologist’s role is appreciated.
  • 80 percent of respondents stated a report should allow for fast and efficient reading.

“Ultimately, although there may be valid reasons to oppose structured reporting, which have been extensively discussed within the radiology community, the preferences of recipients of radiology reports should outweigh potential disadvantages on the radiologist side to further improve quality, clarity, and satisfaction with radiology services,” the researchers wrote.