Rad report grading systems: The quality metric of tomorrow or a step too far?

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 - Michael Walter
Michael Walter, Associate Editor

The Journal of the American College of Radiology recently published a fascinating review of the many quality metrics found in diagnostic radiology. Author Richard E. Heller III, MD, MBA, concluded the article by recommending several changes for the future, and one of those changes was the idea that radiology needs a “new and gradable standard” for written radiology reports.

“Because the primary ‘product’ or ‘outcome’ of diagnostic radiology is the radiology report, uniform grading of report quality should be considered,” Heller wrote. “Although reporting styles are variable and standardizing controversial, there is general agreement that reports should be accurate, concise, and readily understandable, providing actionable information and utilizing evidence-based recommendations.”

Once I had finished the article, I kept going back to that one suggestion. Is it a good idea? A bad one?

Assigning a grade to radiology reports might be the next logical step in quality-based care … or is it yet another example of the never-ending parade of red tape and restrictions specialists encounter on a regular basis?

I tend to think it’s the former. Radiologists might be assessed by their turnaround times, their specificity, their equipment, their department or anything else under the sun, but if that individual doesn’t produce a high-quality radiology report, it undermines everything else that has taken place. Especially as healthcare shifts toward patients gaining immediate access to their records, wouldn’t it be best for the radiologist to put his or her best foot forward?

At the very least, I look forward to reading more significant research that examines the possibility of graded radiology reports. How would it impact the quality of care? Would it hurt morale within the department?

I think Heller is on to something here, but I would also love to hear what you, today’s leaders in imaging, think about the idea. Reach out to me via Twitter or shoot me an email, so we can continue this conversation.