Which way to the reading room?

As the practice of radiology becomes increasingly digitized and separated from the clinical environment, communication between radiologists and referring physicians remains an ever-critical aspect of providing timely and effective care to patients.

In this world of teleradiology and remote reading rooms, however, ensuring the efficiency of that communication is a growing challenge that must be addressed, according to Elizabeth Lio, MD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, and co-authors of a new case study published online in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

“In a work environment defined by digitized imaging archiving systems and increasing numbers of imaging studies ordered, reading-room visits and in-person clinician-radiologist communication, although ideal, are becoming less feasible,” wrote Lio and her colleagues. “An additional roadblock to communication is the physical location of the radiologist.”

In a survey of clinicians within their medical facility, Lio and her team found that 38 percent did not know how to contact a thoracic radiologist. Additionally, they discovered that 64 percent of respondents were unaware of the location of the thoracic radiology reading room.

Based on these results, the researchers developed three specific interventions to remedy the problems. First, they sent an email to clinicians with contact information for the thoracic radiology department, as well as information related to the reading room location. Next, they created and included a template at the end of every thoracic radiologist-generated imaging report that included the location of the reading room and contact information and regular hours for the radiologist. Finally, they created a document with a brief profile of each thoracic radiologist, including subspecialty training, clinical interests, and academic responsibilities to better acquaint referring physicians with them.

After implementing the changes, a follow-up survey showed improvement in doctor-radiologist communication: only 10 percent now reported they were uncertain how to contact a thoracic radiologist, and only 48 percent still did not know the location of the thoracic radiology reading room.

Based on the results of their intervention, Lio and her colleagues suggest other facilities employ these simple changes to improve communication between clinicians and radiologists. “Encourage direct communication through other than in-person means, such as via phone, or electronically, through email,” the authors advised, “and empower the ordering physician by providing easily accessible, department-specific contact information.”