In the forty years I have been counseling radiologists, I've seen many innovations in the technology used to deliver radiology services. Most of those innovations have focused on improved capabilities of advanced diagnostic imaging modalities and techniques. But a recent innovation that has been of particular interest to me has been the emergence of patient-centered and patient-friendly radiology reporting. I am a believer in the positive impact that can result from sending patient-friendly radiology reports to patients. These reports are designed to give patients more "readable" radiology findings by utilizing an interactive web page-style format with easy to understand diagrams and embedded plain language explanations of medical terms in the reports.
Whether the use of new patient-friendly radiology reports can actually produce positive results, i.e., patient-centered outcomes (PCO), was the focus of a study just accepted for publication by the Journal of the American College of Radiology. I was pleased that the study indicates better patient satisfaction and potentially improved health outcomes and reduced costs.
The information blocking rules arising from the 21st Century Cures Act have led a growing number of hospital radiology departments and imaging centers to terminate embargos on the release of radiology reports -- to allow time for patients' physicians to communicate the findings -- by providing patients immediate access to the reports prepared by interpreting radiologists. Despite this immediate access, the highly technical nature of radiology reports prepared for the patient's physician are reported to have caused challenges for patients in understanding their radiology reports when accessed.
To improve patient understanding, the centers with whom the authors of the new study are associated are now supplementing the radiology reports with patient-centered and patient-friendly reporting that offer a opportunity to give patients to better understand those findings. The authors decided to study the reaction of patients to the patient-centered reporting.
An invitation to participate in an outcome study was embedded in the reports. After viewing the patient-friendly report, patients were asked if they were willing to participate in a follow-up survey regarding their experience with the patient-friendly reporting. A total of 1,033 surveys were completed out of 6,099 delivered survey emails to patients who had expressed a willingness to participate in the survey.
The results are encouraging. A strong majority of survey respondents indicated that the patient-friendly report had a positive impact on follow-up visits with their healthcare providers. Patients were left feeling better prepared to understand treatment recommendations. And patients indicated that the patient-friendly radiology report reduced their anxiety about their imaging results.
Particularly interesting was the study's finding about the reaction of patients' physicians to the patient-friendly reports. Most healthcare providers also had a positive reaction to the patient-friendly report. Half of patient respondents indicated that they showed the patient-friendly radiology report to their healthcare provider during a follow-up visit, and 73% of that group stated that their provider had a positive or very positive opinion of the patient-friendly report.
It is extremely encouraging that this study supports ongoing use of patient-friendly radiology reporting. I agree with the authors that the use of patient-centered reporting "may represent a promising strategy for improving patient-centered outcomes in radiology, where direct patient engagement opportunities are traditionally limited."