Straight talk: Patients want full radiology results from familiar faces

When it comes to receiving the results of radiological exams, a recent survey found the majority of patients prefer hearing from the ordering physician instead of the radiologist.

Published this month in the American Journal of Roentgenology, the study was led by Mark D. Mangano, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Mangano and colleagues set out to ascertain the preferences and attitudes of patients when it comes to communications with radiologists.

“Patient attitudes and opinions regarding these practices are not well understood and would provide useful data for radiologists and referring physicians as they develop appropriate patient-centered communication strategies,” Mangano and colleagues wrote. “We decided to survey our patient population to better understand their views.”

The study focused on adult patients who had received outpatient contrast-enhanced CT or contrast-enhanced MRI during a two-week period in June 2013. These patients were invited to participate in a post-exam survey and 642 responded to the survey, a 58.4 percent response rate. Researchers found the highest response rates came from patients between the ages of 51 and 60 years old.

Respondents were asked to identify their preferred method of receiving radiology test results. Telephone calls from the ordering physician were preferred (34.1 percent) over telephone calls from the radiologist (12 percent) or face-to-face meetings with the radiologist (2 percent).

For normal results, 61 percent of participants chose to receive results through postal mail, e-mail or an online portal. In comparison, when receiving abnormal results, 49.8 percent of patients chose receiving results over the phone from the ordering physician versus a telephone call from the radiologist (14.4 percent) or a face-to-face meeting with the radiologist (8.3 percent).

More participants (22.7 percent) desired interaction with the radiologist, either in-person or via telephone, for abnormal results than for normal results.

Mangano and the research team also found that patients prefer detailed exam results over a brief summary delivered in lay terms.

Despite the results showing patients are not clamoring for more contact with radiologists, there appear to be avenues radiologists can pursue to be part of results delivery, including radiologists acting as an adjunct to the ordering physician during results delivery or establishing their own results delivery program.

“This study provides an important perspective from patients about the role of radiologists in communicating examination results,” the research team wrote.  “Continued study in this arena is certainly warranted, especially with regard to potential effects on radiologist workflow and job satisfaction.”