Embedding images in radiology reports can speed decision making and improve patient care

March 1, 2010, American College of Radiology / American Roentgen Ray Society

Embedding clinical images to accompany findings described in a radiology text report enhances radiologists' communication with referring physicians and can improve patient care, according to a study in the March issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

"The imaging exam report provides an important means of communication between the radiologist and the other rendering care and is often the only form of communication between the radiologist and the referring physician," said Veena R. Iyer, MBBS. It has been suggested that providing the referring physician with selected images embedded in the text report over the web could improve and support the information contained in the report. "We undertook this study to measure the utility to the referring physician, of radiology reports with attached, relevant images of the abnormal findings," said Iyer.

Thirty-five cases referred for abdominal computed tomography (CT) scans were included in the study, which was performed at Massachusetts General Hospital. Referring physicians were asked to view a text-only report followed by the same report with pertinent embedded images. "In 32 of the 35 cases, the text-only report satisfactorily answered the clinical query. In these 32 cases, the report with the attached images helped in making a more confident management decision and reduced time in planning management. Attached images altered management in two cases," said Iyer.

"The results of our study indicate that although clinician's queries are satisfactorily answered by the current itemized report, providing additional images conveys useful information. It may enable the referring clinician to formulate response plans more rapidly and with increased confidence," she said.

"Providing referring clinicians with a selected subsample of relevant images attached to the report improves the radiologist's communication with them. Such a report has the ability to save the clinician's time, and possibly improve patient management," said Iyer.

More information: www.jacr.org

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