Most referring providers fine with radiologists delivering imaging results; some patients remain hesitant

There’s been a recent push to increase radiologists’ visibility by communicating results directly to patients. But new research shows providers and patients don’t see eye-to-eye on this topic, suggesting an individualized approach for delivering findings may be best.

Imaging results are presented in many ways, including via web portals, from referring physicians, nurse coordinators or radiologists. One thing is certain, however: there’s no universal agreed-upon approach, Weill Cornell Medicine experts explained Friday in JACR.

Hoping to find a solution, the New York-based practitioners surveyed 192 referrers and 258 patients as they came in for CT lung cancer screening exams. Most were OK with radiologists delivering both normal and abnormal results, but it isn’t that straightforward.

For example, 51% of patients preferred to receive general imaging results from their referring provider, with 25% citing a radiologist as their top choice. At the same time, all providers surveyed said they were comfortable with rads disclosing normal results without consulting with them beforehand. That figure dipped for abnormal findings.

The conclusions suggest stakeholders may need to reevaluate their approach to communicating exam results, the authors explained.

“Variation among provider and patient preferences advocates for an individualized approach to optimize both referrer satisfaction and patient care,” Joanna G. Escalon, MD, director of Thoracic MRI at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, and colleagues added July 9.

Escalon and co-authors noted only 47 of 192 providers responded to the survey with 140 patient replies.

Below are additional findings:

  • Seventy-four percent of referrers agree with radiologists delivering normal results and reviewing images with patients after talking with physicians over the phone. The remaining 26% disagreed.
  • At the same time, 81% of referring providers think the interpreting rad should deliver abnormal results and review images after a phone call with the referring physician. Nineteen percent, meanwhile, didn’t think this was OK. 
  • Out of the 38 who agreed with the above statement, 34 are fine if radiologists deliver results without talking to them beforehand. Three didn’t want rads discussing abnormal findings with patients at all.
  • For lung cancer screening CT, 49% of patients prefer to leave immediately and receive normal results from their referring provider, whereas 40% said the same if results were abnormal.
  • Patients are comfortable hearing normal or abnormal results from a radiologist and want to see their CT images (74% for both).

Read the full study here.

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