Referring clinicians prefer structured radiology reports over prose reports

Referring clinicians of all experience levels find structured radiology reports to have better readability and better clinical utility than traditional prose reports, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

The authors surveyed the referral population of a single academic hospital in 2015, providing two radiology reports for the same study—one in a structured format and one in a “more traditional, prose style”—and asking which the referring clinicians preferred.

Overall, the clinicians preferred the structured radiology report. When respondents were separated into different groups based on their experience level, more than 68 percent of novice clinicians thought the structured report had superior readability. More than 71 percent of intermediate clinicians and more than 65 percent of advanced clinicians came to the same conclusion.

In addition, the structured report was found to have superior clinical utility by 52 percent of novice clinicians, more than 52 percent of intermediate clinicians and more than 47 of advanced clinicians. Those smaller percentages don’t necessarily mean more respondents preferred the prose report; more than 36 percent of each group of clinicians said they thought the two reports had “equal” clinical utility.

“The current body of literature supports the increased readability and clinical efficacy of the structured report, but there are conflicting studies,” wrote lead author Jacob Bieszczad, MD, department of radiology at the University of Toledo Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio, and colleagues. “With our study, we confirmed the superiority of structured reporting at our specific academic institution based on provider preference at a multidisciplinary level. Our study differs from the existing literature in that we polled the entirety of our referral population, which included practitioners of all levels of experience.”

Bieszczad and colleagues added that “radiologist participation in structured reporting initiatives” is an issue for any leaders looking to get their employees to implement a more structured approach to their reporting. Explaining the findings of such as this one, the authors wrote, could potentially help participation.