Radiologists sharing imaging results is likely to boost patient satisfaction, but there also needs to be proper follow-up by the ordering physician.
The practice of radiologists delivering test results directly to the patient is quickly becoming popular among large radiology practices. An interesting article posted at Diagnostic Imaging earlier this week looks at the issue.
It has always been my practice to follow up with patients in person regarding the results of radiology testing whenever the order for the test is generated from my office. This is done for two simple reasons. Firstly, I feel it is my duty to properly follow up and advise the patients regarding the test(s) that I order for them. It is a good medical practice to do so and ensures that no results are lost to follow-up. Lastly, the medicolegal implications of failure to properly follow up on an abnormal test result would have dire consequences and depending on the individual case, such failure to do this regarding imaging results would be considered malpractice.
The concept of the radiologist providing communication to the patient either at the time of the imaging procedure or in written communication after the procedure has been completed would be an acceptable work flow, however clear communication between both the ordering physician and the radiologist must exist so that no tests are being lost to follow-up. A recent study referenced in the above article found that patient satisfaction increased tremendously with the radiologist providing feedback to the patient on the day of the procedure. A similar practice has already been implemented with direct delivery of mammography results to the patient.
In my private practice, any time an order is given regarding an imaging procedure such as ultrasound, computed tomography, or magnetic resonance imaging, the patient is given a follow-up appointment to come back to the office to discuss the results of the procedure and plan any follow-up testing or consultation needed at that time. I would not have a problem with the radiologist sharing the findings of their interpretation with the patient, however, I would continue to follow the same procedure and provide the same follow-up for my patients. Such communication by the radiologist will most certainly increase the patient's satisfaction and experience from the imaging procedure. As long as the ordering physician continues to provide the needed follow-up and discussion with the patient, I see no negative aspects to radiologist-to-patient communication.
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