4 opportunities for radiologists to improve shared decision-making

Shared-decision making (SDM) is central to patient-centered care. And according to a recent literature review, radiologists can play a key role in the process.

“On the surface, SDM is relevant only to clinicians who make decisions in partnership with patients,” wrote Kendall Cooper, with Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, and colleagues. “That is a misconception; radiology and radiologists can play an important role in SDM.”

Cooper and colleagues examined four areas radiologists can key in on, sharing them Oct. 1 in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

1. Improve patient-access to their healthcare information

Patients are increasingly assessing their health information via patient portals, but many institutions make it difficult to access due to confidentiality concerns, embargo periods and education levels, among other factors.

“They (radiologists) can play a role in facilitating portal enrollment by disseminating information regarding availability and access to the portal,” the researchers wrote. “Advocacy for development of programs targeting specific racial and ethnic groups can also increase patient access to medical information.”

Patients with access to their information can better communicate with clinicians and are more likely to adhere to their care plan, the team wrote. Delays in accessing imaging results can also create unneeded stress in patients.

2. Help patients understand their reports

Radiology reports won’t help patients much if they are hard to understand, and of all clinical reports, radiology reports are among the toughest to comprehend.

Radiologists may find success with multimedia-enhanced reports presented in lay language, with hyperlinks to glossaries and medical illustrations on the internet and annotated images, the researchers explained.

“With improved readability and comprehension of radiology reports, patients can become more involved in their own care and develop a sense of autonomy,” Cooper and colleagues wrote.

3. Help patients understand the implications of findings

Translating difficult-to-read radiology reports is only half the battle. Radiologists need to help patients “appraise” the information, which includes interpreting it, picking out important information and determining what’s relevant.

“Appraisal of medical information is best achieved in a conversation between patients and health care providers,” the researchers wrote. “Radiologists have an opportunity to prompt such conversations when indicated, for example, by including messages to patients in the radiology report.”

Radiologists can also utilize telemedicine programs to connect with patients and explain findings face-to-face.

4. Help patients make an informed decision

Cooper and colleagues pointed to a program put into place by the Washington State Health Care Authority that utilized standardized patient decision aids (PDAs) to list the benefits and risks associated with diagnostic tests and treatments. These PDAs helped patient’s make informed decisions and helped establish patient accountability.

“Radiologists could improve on the quality of PDAs by adding information regarding evidence-based use of imaging modalities and accurate delineation of benefits and disadvantages of modalities and procedures, such as exposure to ionizing radiation, need for sedation, interventional procedure risks, and wait times,” according to the researchers.