JACR: Embedding Images in radiology reports can improve patient care

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Embedding clinical images into radiology reports can not only save time, but can increase physician confidence in selecting treatment plans for the patient and enhance radiologists’ communication with referring physicians, said a study published online today in the March issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology (JACR).

Lead Author Veena R. Iyer and colleagues from the Department of Radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston said they conducted this study to measure the utility of radiology reports with attached, relevant images in support of abnormal findings to the referring physician.

“The imaging exam report provides an important means of communication between the radiologist and the other physicians rendering care and is often the only form of communication between the radiologist and the referring physician,” noted Iyer.

The researchers selected 35 cases that were referred for abdominal CT scans in 2007 and 2008 and asked referring physicians that participated in the study to view text-only reports, followed by the same reports with pertinent images embedded.

A questionnaire was administered to the referring physicians following each pair of reports viewed, containing a 5-point, Likert-type scale to assess if the physician was satisfied with the text-only report and yes-or-no questions were posed to the physician to assess whether the report with images answered the clinical query better.

If the physician responded with a positive answer in favor of the reports with images, further “yes-or-no” queries were generated to examine whether the report with images helped in making a more confident decision on management, whether it reduced time spent in forming the plan and whether it altered management, said the authors.

The text-only report satisfactorily answered the clinical query in 32 of the 35 cases, but in these 32 cases, the report with the attached images helped in making a more confident management decision and reduced time in planning management, wrote the authors.

Moreover, radiologists would have been consulted for clarifications in 21 of the text only reports and 10 of the reports with embedded images, according to the researchers. Attached images were found to have altered management in two of the 35 cases.

“The results of our study indicate that although clinicians' queries are satisfactorily answered by the current itemized report, providing additional images conveys useful information. Consultations with radiologists would have been reduced by 50 percent, and in all cases, clinicians liked the convenience of attached pertinent images,” said Iyer.