Do referring clinicians actually view MSK radiology reports?

Ordering clinicians across most specialties commonly utilize musculoskeletal (MSK) radiology reports, according to an Oct. 28 study published in the Journal of Digital Imaging.

While reliance on these reports and images alone varied by department and modality, even among orthopedists, to the researchers surprise, consulting MSK study reports was “nearly universal” across the 13 departments included in the study.

“The radiology report is the primary means of communication between radiologists and clinicians; however, some clinicians prioritize medical images over radiology reports,” Sadaf Sahraian, with Johns Hopkins Medical Institution, and colleagues said.

“Although one would think that the radiology report plays a critical role in patient care, few studies have determined whether radiology reports are actually viewed by referrers.”

The researchers wanted to analyze the viewing habits for images and reports, using MSK studies because they incorporate many modalities, a number of different specialists and a broad array of pathologies.

Sahraian and colleagues tracked image and report access for all MSK studies ordered in September 2016, looking at eight months of logs via the institution’s electronic medical record and PACS.

Overall, clinicians viewed MSK reports alone or in addition to the images 96.3% of the time. Reports were viewed alone in 51.9% of cases. By comparison, providers accessed MSK study images by themselves without viewing the attached report 3.7% of the time.

Broken down by modality, clinicians looked at CT and MRI reports (without images) most often. The former were viewed in 68.3% of cases; MRI reports were accessed in 57.3% of cases and radiography reports in 48.3% of situations.

Rates varied by specialty, but orthopedists ordered the highest number of MSK studies and accessed reports 99.2% of the time; they looked at reports alone 54.5% of the time and chose to only look at images in a mere 0.8% of cases.

“Aligned with our hypothesis, reports (7842/8143; 96.3%) were reviewed twice as often as images (3916/8143; 48.1%), further implying that there is more reliance on the radiologist reports rather than the images,” the authors concluded.