Editor's Note: Communicating Better

Closing the loop on critical test results management (CTRM) is increasing the quality—and timeliness—of patient care. The numbers add up with approximately 12 billion radiology, laboratory and cardiology tests completed each year in the United States. About 1 to 5 percent of those tests come back abnormal or critical, thus kicking off a trail to notify the caregiver and patient of necessary follow-up.

New solutions, as you’ll see in our cover story, are closing the loop by guaranteeing that the people who need critical patient information get it. It is a combination of information technology and the human touch that makes the difference. Operators communicating with radiologists and key physicians pass on information that could impact life or limb. The loop begins with a referring physician or intensivist ordering a STAT study. A radiology exam, for example, is completed and the report prepared. A trained medical specialist then creates the phone bridge to the caregiver to communicate results. When a specialist takes over, the typical two to three million calls physicians have had to make annually to communicate test results are no longer necessary. Physicians gain valuable time. And with about 85 percent of radiology-related medical malpractice lawsuits brought on by miscommunication of findings, CTRM can be money well spent.

March brings a strong focus on cardiology as well. The American College of Cardiology (ACC) meets this month in Chicago. The push for healthcare reform amid calls for cost effectiveness and quality reporting will unify this year’s meeting. Our special section takes a closer look at the sea change taking place in the cath lab as the procedure mix adapts to a new equilibrium with greater emphasis on electrophysiology procedures and peripheral vascular and carotid interventions. Cardiac CT has clearly proven its clinical merits and brought a boon to cardiac imaging. But of course we’re all keeping a watchful eye on pending CMS reimbursement that proposes adoption of a national coverage determination that could substantially limit CT use. (Stay tuned to HealthImaging.com and Health Imaging News for details.) We round out our ACC coverage with a focus on cardiology PACS solutions that link more cardiac imaging modalities and a preview of products being debuted and featured at the show. I hope to see you in Chicago.