I just read a fascinating review article published online today by Diagnostic Imaging. The authors report their review of recent medical literature that describe the rapidly evolving approaches to increasing referring physicians' and patients' understanding of radiologists' interpretive reports.
Until recently, most hospitals and other imaging facilities placed an embargo on radiology reports in order to permit referring physicians a few days to review the report and discuss the results with patients and their families. Those days are ending. Report embargos are largely disappearing due to the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act and its resulting inoperability and information blocking regulations. Today, many patients will have access to their reports via patient portals and will have read those reports before their treating physicians do.
The reviewers find that surveys reveal that not only patients, but also referring physicians, can misunderstand the complex findings contained in radiology reports. In response, there is a movement to help radiologists transition from free-form radiology reports to more structured reporting.
I find the most exciting development to be the efforts to reinvent the radiology report in ways to enhance patient understanding. A movement is underway to produce understandable patient summaries written in clear and understandable language and making use of interactive infographics. Currently, the content of most radiologist's report remains incomprehensible to patients due to, as the authors note, "the technical, medically specific terminologies necessary for the precise, accurate, relevant description of image findings." Hence the move to patient-friendly reporting.
I agree with the authors (as I have previously discussed here, here and here) that making patients a new target audience for radiology reports presents an extraordinary opportunity for the specialty of radiology, particularly as the health care system evolves to embrace value-based care.
I urge you to read this new review article to gain a better understanding of where radiology reporting is moving.