Most patients never directly interact with their radiologist. Most often, a doctor orders the test, the patient goes to the imaging center, and the report from the test goes back to the doctor to share with the patient. Sometimes patients are not offered the chance to see the original scan unless they ask specifically. Many radiologists, including Jim Gray MD from Mississippi, want to change this process and make sure that the patient receives as much information as possible from the radiologist. To this end, radiologists are looking for ways to produce reports that patients can understand.
Different Types of Reports
There are many different methods of producing reports that patients can absorb more easily. One of the best methods is by annotating the results. Annotations can include definitions of medical terms, links to further information, and public domain images and illustrations.
The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania has been a forerunner in this field with their system, the Patient-Oriented Radiology Report or PORTER. PORTER makes it easy for radiologists to include supporting information with their scans. As a web-based tool, the program can be accessed anywhere. This can give patients an important way to enhance their knowledge about their personal health.
Rewriting the often-wordy reports is another goal of the patient-centered radiology model. Rather than producing reports which are only targeted at physicians, more radiologists are beginning to produce patient-accessible reports. Hospitals producing these reports include the University of Virginia Health System. These reports include general information about the condition being scanned for, including scan images when possible. It is especially helpful to show the patient a risk profile for their scan, such as pointing out how much of a risk the patient has for developing a malignant condition based on the scan results.
Doctors should, of course, talk with their patients before sending them for radiology scans, letting them know whether their condition could possibly be malignant or could cause other health problems, says Jim Gray MD. For this reason, the doctor should be available to answer any questions about the patient’s reading of the radiology report. Contact with the radiologist on the phone or in person can also be a valuable asset.
Reasons to Make Reports Accessible
One of the most pressing reasons why radiologists are looking for ways to make their reports accessible is the proliferation of false and misleading information found online. When patients take their questions to “Dr. Google” rather than their own physicians, they may find that they are missing important information and may be misled. Having a physician-annotated radiology report will keep these patients from the temptation to Google their condition and find potentially misleading information.
Patient Control and Satisfaction
When a patient feels in control of his or her medical information, they will have an increased level of satisfaction with the results. This can help to put patients’ minds at ease and to help doctors communicate in realistic terms. Doctors like Jim Gray MD from Mississippi are proponents of the patient-centered radiology report. When patients’ lives are on the line, it is doubly important that the radiologist make themselves available for consultation.
Patients can find themselves in a bind if they rely on “Dr. Google” to give them information about their conditions. Helping patients avoid this problem should be the goal of all doctors producing reports for their patients, especially radiologists. Giving patients high-accuracy, understandable reports can prevent them from falling into misleading information. While these reports may be more difficult for radiologists to produce, they should consider putting in the extra time to make sure their patients are properly informed.