Structured oncology reporting for follow-up imaging of metastatic cancer patients scores high marks

Switching to structured oncology reporting for follow-up imaging of metastatic cancer patients is scoring high marks at one high-traffic cancer center, according to an analysis published Tuesday.

Scientists with Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany recently tested out the change, transitioning away from the narrative, free-form method of reporting, which sometimes misses vital information. The pilot program has quickly taken hold among physicians, and the institution is transitioning all of its work to these structured templates, experts wrote in Insights into Imaging.

“Supported by dedicated software, high-volume utilization of profoundly structured radiology reports is feasible for general follow-up imaging in cancer patients,” Tim Frederik Weber, with the department of diagnostic and interventional radiology, and colleagues wrote Sept. 29.

The research team designed their new reporting program with a uniform layout, tabulated tumor burden documentation, and standardized conclusions using consistent terminology. Six oncologists retrospectively rated 25 reports written using the new system, and 25 more created with conventional methods.

In that first year of implementation, radiologists filed 7,471 structured reports, and the proportion using the program leapt from just 49% to 95% in the first few months. Oncologists rated structured reporting higher in terms of quality and overall satisfaction, with a positive rating of 89% compared to 67% for the old methods. SOR was used primarily for oncological follow-up of metastatic disease, but may also prove useful for the initial staging of newly diagnosed cancers, the research team noted.

“Within a few months after introduction into clinical practice, [strategic oncology reporting] has replaced [conventional reports] and now represents the backbone of oncological imaging in our high-volume cancer center,” Weber et al. wrote in the study’s discussion section. “Analysis of referring physicians’ satisfaction shows superiority of SOR over CR regarding different elements of report quality. This applies to both senior medical oncologists and assistant physicians in training,” they added later.

Read more of their analysis in the official journal of the European Society of Radiology here.