Every picture tells a story: Gauging interest in multimedia reports

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Referring physicians would welcome radiology reports with embedded images, and the improved reports may have the potential to boost patient care, according to survey results published in the December issue of Academic Radiology.

“Creating accessible, readable, and automatic multimedia reports should be a high priority to enhance the practice and satisfaction of referring physicians, improve patient care, and emphasize the critical role radiology plays in current medical care,” wrote Lina Nayak, MD, of Stanford University Medical Center in Stanford, Calif., and colleagues.

The authors noted that, for the most part, radiology reports today are similar to those from 100 years ago. Current technology could allow for narrative text reports to be embedded with key images, such as annotated image, maximum intensity projections and 3D post-processed images.

To gauge referring physicians’ interest in this type of multimedia report, the authors send a survey vie email and newsletter to 1,800 attending physicians at Stanford University Medical Center. Between July and November 2012, 160 responses were collected.

Of the respondents, 89 percent indicated interest in reports with embedded images. Nearly three quarters of the interested physicians agreed that multimedia reports could improve interactions with radiologists, 91 percent agreed images could enhance understanding of text-based reports, and 60 percent felt the improved reports would lead to better patient care and outcomes.

Nayak and colleagues acknowledged the challenges of implementing an automated multimedia report. It would require programming to query images from key image codes in report text and integration with PACs, RIS and the EMR. Image processing algorithms to resize images and overlay annotations would also need to be created.

Aside from the technical issues, radiologists and referring physician buy-in would also be necessary. Radiologists’ workflow would have to change to consistently integrate key image codes and annotation of significant images.

Despite the challenges, Nayak and colleagues wrote that their results suggest “technological advances to support the creation of easily accessible, readable, and automatic multimedia reports should be pursued and considered a high priority.”