Radiology software can save $1M, reduce errors in bone density image reporting

A team of researchers found data entry software can reduce errors in ultrasound and dual-energy x-ray (DEXA) radiology reports while saving time and up to $1 million in radiologist wages over five years.

Researchers published the findings online March 20 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

According to the study, conducted at University of Colorado, errors in data entry made by radiologists or sonographers varied by report type, but occurred in 6 to 28 percent of ultrasound and DEXA reports.

“Errors in radiology reports may result in lawsuits, especially if inaccurate reporting leads to patient mismanagement,” wrote corresponding author Arielle Bauer, MD with the Department of Radiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and colleagues. “More important, medical errors, even those that are relatively minor, can result in serious consequences such as misdiagnosis and longer and costlier hospital stays.”

In this prospective study authors collected measurement and side error data from 253 ultrasound and 50 DEXA absorptiometry reports. These were taken from eight radiologists and 30 sonographers. They also gathered the time required for data entry that the software would reduce which was measured by report type.

Results showed side errors happened rarely (two attributed sonographers). Over five years, the group estimated that the software could save $693,777 in radiologist wages and $130,771 in sonographer wages. The total potential savings ranged from $621,866 to $1,039,714.

“We determined that the potential time savings would generate substantial savings in wages for radiologists and for sonographers at our institution,” wrote Bauer et al. “In fact, our figures are likely a significant underestimate because we focused on only a percentage of our total ultrasound examinations. All types of ultrasound studies would potentially benefit from this software.”

Authors noted the up-front cost of installing such a software system would present a challenge for institutions, but the time and cost benefit, which would vary by site, would outweigh the initial cost burden.

“The use of data integration software would both significantly reduce errors in ultrasound and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry reports and save a considerable amount of time and money,” according to Bauer et al.