Patients and referrers agree, rad reports via online portals are the future

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Evan Godt, Editorial Director

As patients become more like shoppers, practices will have to give the customers what they want, and in imaging that means online access to radiology reports.

Patient communication has been an area of focus in recent years, though despite the desire to give patients as much information as possible, some may have concerns about the impact on referring physicians. Others may wonder how useful patients would even find the info once they had access.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology took a look at both concerns and found digital access to radiology reports were well received by both patients and their doctors.

Don Henshaw, MD, and his colleagues from the Hawaii Permanente Medical Group in Honolulu, surveyed more than 500 patients and nearly 50 referring physicians to arrive at their conclusions. The portal in question included only reports, not the images themselves.

Results showed nearly three out of four patients reported easy access to the reports, and 88 percent found the access important. Referrers, far from feeling hindered by patients accessing their own reports online, gave high marks as well. A total of 88 percent of the doctors said it was a useful tool for patients and 86 percent said there was no impact to workload as the number of follow-up calls or office visits with patients either decreased or stayed the same.

“The practice of manual release of radiology reports was well received by the majority of patients, and most referring physicians found it useful,” the authors concluded, adding that a delay between reporting results to physicians and releasing them via the portal could allow for communication with the patient before they saw the report, if needed.

Portal technology will only advance and become more commonplace in the future, with some now offering full images along with the report that patients can share with other doctors or family members.

The study offers further confirmation as to what patients are looking for, and practices should try to stay ahead of the curve.