Radiology providers struggling to share images in a timely fashion, steer patients to portals

Academic medical centers in the U.S. have largely implemented patient portals, according to a new survey. And yet, many are struggling to both steer consumers toward these resources and share images in a timely fashion, experts reported Tuesday.

Some 94% of those polled offer such online access to personal health information, while 4 out of 5 said less than half of patients actually use their portals. Most medical centers automatically share images after an exam, but with an average lag of about four days, Yale School of Medicine researchers wrote in Clinical Imaging.

The study’s sample was small, at only 31 centers, or a 28% response rate. Author Justin Holder, MD, and colleagues, however, believe the analysis could serve as a conversation starter as providers determine how best to serve patients after an imaging exam.

“This data could encourage practices to commence automatic report release if not already doing so and may assist practices already releasing their reports to match their practice pattern to national trends,” Holder, a former fellow with Yale and current radiologist with Montefiore Health System in New York, and colleagues wrote Jan. 5.

For the analysis, Holder et al. contacted 108 members with the Association of Administrators in Academic Radiology. Thirty-one respondents at least partially completed the poll, with 80% saying they offer a patient portal. Roughly 78% said they automatically share images in some fashion, and delays between report completion and release to the portal ranged from zero to seven days, the survey found.

Holder and his co-authors noted that not everyone in the field might agree about the importance of relaying reports to patients instantly. Negative results might help curtail patient anxiety while also improving consumer satisfaction. Yet on the flipside, a prompt poor prognosis might spell unnecessary stress and strain the patient-physician relationship.

“Both extremes could therefore diminish the patient's experience and quality of care, and an optimal balance has yet to be decided,” the authors wrote, adding that this is likely why 41% of providers who automatically release reports have certain exclusions to the policy. “With the continued growth of patient portals and national attention on patient centered care, we hope that this data will help inform sites across the nation on the current state of radiology report release in portals with a goal of improving patient access to their radiology results,” the team added later.

You can read the entire study in Clinical Imaging here.