Diagnostic imaging is a field that has been driven by technology and innovation, largely focused on the growing capabilities of advanced diagnostic imaging modalities and techniques. So it's fascinating to see patient-focused examples of innovation in diagnostic imaging. An evaluation of patient-centered radiology reports provided via radiology-specific patient portals has just been published in the February 2022 issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.
The authors are part of a collaborative comprised of a large subspecialty private practice radiology group, an operator of imaging centers across the United States, and a software developer. They have piloted a software platform for delivering patient-centered radiology reports for all imaging modalities in an outpatient, private practice setting, which is the focus of their published evaluation.
They note that the information blocking provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act have led a growing number of imaging centers to terminate report embargos and to provide patients immediate access to their radiology reports. Despite the potential of such immediate access, they note that radiology reports are highly technical and intended for the patient's physician. Consequently, patients often misunderstand their radiology reports when they access those reports.
To improve patient understanding, the centers with whom the authors are associated are beginning to provide radiology reports to patients in an interactive web page-style format with diagrams and embedded plain language explanations of medical terms. The software they have adopted analyzes radiology report text and uses natural language processing to identify and annotate medical terms and phrases which are linked to plain language explanations. Patient-centered definitions and diagrams are viewable alongside the report within a self-contained interface.
The study evaluated patient use and satisfaction with patient-centered radiology reports that were provided through their radiology-specific patient portals. Their findings are interesting. A higher percentage of patients accessed their radiology report via the radiology-specific patient portal than in previously published studies. The average report viewing time was 4 minutes longer for patients who used the interactive plain language definitions and diagrams, suggesting that dedicated patient-centered content may increase engagement. Of the patients viewing their reports, 84.7% reported that the plain language definitions and diagrams helped them to understand their report, and 86.7% endorsed an overall positive experience viewing their report online in this format.
I look forward to following developments in the evolution of radiology reporting: I suspect that it may soon be moving toward widespread patient-centered communications in addition to the traditional radiologist-treating physician interactions. A remarkable change.