Patient portals help radiologists demonstrate value, increase visibility

What does it mean for radiology now that more and more patients are gaining online access to their radiology reports? According to a new analysis published in Academic Radiology, the widespread adoption of patient portals helps radiologists increase their visibility and provide additional value.

“Although value manifests itself differently in different specialties, digital technology provides an important mechanism for advancing patient-centered radiology,” wrote authors Geraldine J. Liao, MD, and Christoph I. Lee, MD, MS, department of radiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. “This is not only because radiology reports, by virtue of digitization, are particularly well suited for electronic platforms, but it is also because major policy and practice changes continue to drive the proliferation of these platforms among providers across the country.”

Liao and Lee began the article with a specific example from their own lives: A new patient with a personal history of breast biopsy was notified that her radiology report was available online and immediately read the report. She saw an assessment of “incomplete”—chosen by the radiologists because they needed prior images, which were unavailable at the time—and reached her radiologists via contact information collected from the report, requesting a face-to-face consultation. The consultation took place, and the radiologists were able to explain that they were still in the process of obtaining the patient’s prior images so they could make their final assessment.

This example, the authors noted, shows just how much of a game-changer patient portals can be for radiologists. The patient in question saw her radiology report and was able to facilitate a face-to-face consultation while the radiologists’ staff was still working to obtain her prior images—something unheard of before patient portals entered the picture.

Liao and Lee thought about his experience a lot, realizing it provided valuable insight into the changing world of radiologist-patient relationships.

“Our experience highlights how patient portals can provide an avenue for radiologists to become more visible, direct participants in patient care,” they wrote. “Given that a portion of patients prefer to hear about imaging results from radiologists, these portals could enable radiologists to adopt a more active approach to patient communication. For example, by releasing radiology reports online directly to patients with appropriate contact information, radiologists could provide interested patients—like ours—the ability to engage the imaging team in direct consultations while preserving the ability for patients with different preferences to review results via other means (eg, with their ordering providers).”

This increased visibility, the authors concluded, “will enhance radiologists’ stake in patient-centered and value-driven care.”