Interactive radiology reports preferred by referring physicians

Referring specialists favor interactive multimedia radiology reports over standard text reports and prefer to send patients and peers to facilities that offer them, according to a study published online Jan. 23 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Multimedia-enhanced radiology reporting (MERR) has advanced in recent years thanks to technology breakthroughs including speech recognition capabilities, patient portals that allow access to reports and images as well as PACS-integrated viewing platforms that utilize hyperlinks and annotations in the reports, according to the study authors, including Gelareh Sadigh, MD, with the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine.

The authors cite a recent survey that found 160 physicians at a single academic center viewed the technology associated with MERR as favorable.

“The impact of implementing such technology on physician referral patterns, however, is unknown,” Sadigh and colleagues wrote. “With such technology now commercially available, we aimed to further explore referring specialist physicians’ satisfaction with the format of traditional text-only radiology reports and study their perceptions of the value of an early MERR platform and its potential impact on their referral behavior.”

For the study, the researchers surveyed 200 physicians representing oncology, radiation oncology, neurosurgery and pulmonology with questions that focused on satisfaction with text-only reports and their perceived value placed on image and data-enriched radiology reports.

While 80 percent of the respondents were satisfied with their current text-format reports, 80 percent believed that MERR would be an improvement in reporting.

“The most commonly reported advantages of MERR were ‘improved understanding of radiology findings by correlating images to text reports’ (86 percent) and ‘easier access to images while monitoring progression of a disease/condition’ (79 percent),” the authors found.

Approximately 28 percent of participants reported concerns with implementing MERR—the most common being that it would be too time consuming (53 percent) and that “clinic workflow does not allow itself to view reports in such a fashion” (42 percent).

Additionally, participating physicians responded with a strong likelihood of referring patients (80 percent) and peers (79 percent) to facilities that offered MERR.

The authors concluded that maintaining radiology’s relevance in healthcare delivery is a challenge and that solutions like MERR offer radiologists the opportunity to deliver meaningful reports to physicians and patients.

“As health care systems transition from fee-for-service to value-based payment systems, it is increasingly important for radiologists to become involved and deliver services in ways that meet both patients’ and referring physicians’ needs,” Sadigh and colleagues wrote. “Initiatives such as more meaningful reporting are aligned with the value-chain approach toward moving radiology into an Imaging 3.0™ environment.”