Survey examines parent communication preferences in pediatric radiology

Parents of pediatric radiology patients value speed over all other aspects of radiology results reporting, according to findings from a new survey published Aug. 14 in Academic Radiology.

In fact, when asked to prioritize the most important aspects of receiving radiology results, 65% of respondents chose having quick access to results as their No. 1 desire. 

“Parents place a premium on receiving results quickly,” wrote Emily A. Edwards, MD, with the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues. “This suggests that focusing improvement efforts on decreasing report turnaround time may have the greatest positive impact on the results communication experience of parents of pediatric radiology patients, although it is important to note that turnaround time within radiology is only one part of the typical chain of events in results communication…”

New modes of communication including online patient portals and direct messaging are changing how patients communicate with their doctors. And as radiologists continue to evolve to meet the needs of patients and their families along with referring providers, some practitioners argue radiologists should be visible.

With this in mind, Edward and colleagues offered 112 surveys to parents of pediatric radiology patients at an academic children’s hospital at check-in. Of those nine question surveys, 96 were completed; a majority (81%) of parents were women who had a child with at an average age of nine years old.

At this institution, most (53.4%) parents receive results within 24 hours, either through their child’s doctor or in person (36%). Another 24% receive results via phone or email and 9% discuss findings with a radiologist. Twelve percent view radiology test results through an online medical record portal.

Other highlights from the survey are below:

  • Most parents preferred to receive results through their child’s doctor, either in-person or by phone (37%). Twenty-eight percent preferred email.
  • A small proportion (16%) of parents indicated they would like to discuss results in-person, with a radiologist.
  • Seven percent preferred a printed copy of the radiology report; another 6% indicated they liked to access the results through the online portal.
  • Given a hypothetical scenario in which parents reviewed results first with a radiologist or doctor, 66% chose their child’s doctor. The only situation in which a majority of parent’s chose a radiologist is if they did not already have an appointment scheduled to see their referring provider.

Overall, the results suggest patients, at least at this institution, are happy with their current communication arrangement. But, the authors noted, there is always opportunity to improve.

“Radiology practices may consider modifying or adding to their current communication systems to be more patient- and family-centered, such as offering direct communication to the minority of parents interested in such a service, offering printed copies of the radiology report for those willing to wait, or arranging for direct communication with patients who do not have an appointment scheduled with their referring provider,” the authors wrote. “By building communication systems that mirror parent priorities, with an emphasis on minimizing wait time for results, radiologists can better meet the needs of pediatric radiology patients and their families.”