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Patients Want Better Access to Radiology Records

January 25, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Practice Management
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Many patients say they’re dissatisfied with the way they receive radiology test results and want more access, along with clear, detailed explanations, according to researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. The study was published last fall in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

In the study, researchers worked with two focus groups made up of outpatients who had recently had magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); one group had normal results and the other had abnormal ones. Working separately with the two groups, a facilitator asked open-ended questions about the patients’ test experience, their access to results, and how they preferred to receive test information.

“Most of the patients in our study were decidedly dissatisfied with how they find out about their radiology test results,” said Annette J. Johnson, MD, associate professor of radiology and one of the lead study authors. Many complaints centered around the delay in getting results and the lack of detail provided, Johnson said. “The patients in our study said that they don’t want to hear ‘[everything is] fine’ weeks after the test. They want to know details and they want to know them as soon as the results are in,” she added.

Among the requests from patients:

  • More direct communication from the radiologists, whom many of the patients saw as the real experts in interpreting tests
  • A secure system that would provide test results online so patients would have a chance to prepare questions for their doctor
  • A chance to work with their doctors as a team to determine treatments and improve their health

As a follow-up to the study, the research team interviewed physicans about current reporting systems. While many doctors realize patients are unhappy with how they receive results, the follow-up interviews showed physicians are also concerned about the possible consequences of providing results online.

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