More than 20% of patients have caught errors in their radiology report or other doc notes

About 1 in 5 patients said they have caught an error in their radiology report or other physicians’ notes, with 40% perceiving the mistake as “serious” in nature.

That’s according to a new survey of almost 30,000 patients, led by Harvard Medical School and published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open. Such serious errors, the authors noted, included incorrect medical histories or medication regimens and notes taken on the wrong subject.

“Patients also reported mistakes in radiology results or practitioner summaries of radiology reports that made it difficult to determine whether there was clinical improvement or deterioration,” wrote lead author Sigall Bell, MD, with Harvard and its affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and colleagues. In one such instance, an MRI report used both centimeters and millimeters as units of measurement, creating “ambiguity” for the reader.

Bell et al. reached their conclusions by polling patients treated at three U.S. healthcare institutions that offer open notes. Researchers conducted the survey over the web between June and October 2017, targeting patients treated across 79 academic and community ambulatory care practices. Older and sicker patients, they found, were twice as likely to report an error when compared to their younger and sicker counterparts.

For radiology providers, one “important” takeaway is the need to develop mechanisms that allow patients to respond to their reports, the research team concluded.

“At a time when patient demand for data is increasing along with federal support for providing patients easy access to health information, shared notes may help enlist patients, families, and practitioners in pursuing greater patient safety collaboratively,” Bell and colleagues wrote.