Defending dictation, and getting to the core goal of image interpretation

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Cutting to the basic necessity of radiology reporting results is important, considering all of the high-tech tools out there that – perhaps unintentionally – clutter the objective of radiologists in interpreting images. In a presentation that mixed slides with amusing pictures he had recently taken in and around Austin, Texas, Chris Sistrom, MPH, from the Department of Radiology at the University of Florida Health Center in Gainsville, made a strong effort to remind attendees at the special session on Communicating Results at the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM, formerly SCAR) annual meeting in Austin, that the key role of a radiologist is to compress a huge amount of information into a relatively short report. Essentially, “a few words are worth 1000 pictures,” he said.
   
Generally speaking, Sistrom stated that to improve reporting you must have goals that use a standard language, structured format, and consistent content.

The proper role of IT in radiology reporting, he said, is to be a “vehicle for formulating and expressing” new information that is derived from images and that’s it. Other radiologist goals such as QA of images and other tasks are “laudable” but not the essence of what is important, said Sistrom.
   
As an example, he discussed how speech recognition tools should be best used in a way that mimics how dictation would be performed using a human transcriptionist. One main problem with speech recognition tools, he said, is that radiologists have trouble ignoring the interface which continually displays the report as it develops. Traditional dictation is faster because the results are not immediately available and therefore nothing distracts the radiologist. Therefore several cases can be done without correction.
   
Generally, Sistrom wished to encourage radiologists to “respect the role of narrative in medicine” and emphasized viewing images as opposed to various forms of data entry for codifying findings.