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09-04-2012 | Legal medicine | Article

Patient preferences for access to radiology test results revealed


Free abstract

MedWire News: Most patients report a preference for immediate online access to their radiology results, according to research published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Many healthcare systems are beginning to include direct, online portal systems that allow patients access to electronic health records and some to radiologic test results, write the researchers.

"Our study showed that even though the participants didn't completely understand the medical terminology, they wanted to be able to read the detailed report as soon as possible," said author Annette Johnson (Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA) in a press release.

The recruited patients (n=53) were asked to imagine what they would do in three scenarios. The first was a "nearly normal" scenario where the patient had experienced headaches but computed tomography results appeared normal but with some acute sinusitis. The second was a "seriously abnormal" scenario that described a patient with right leg weakness and back pain who had spinal magnetic resonance imaging results that showed cancer. And the third was an "indeterminate scenario" where the patient had double vision and magnetic resonance imaging results that showed multiple white matter lesions of unknown significance.

The study results show that 32 (60.2%) patients said they would prefer immediate access to reports for the "nearly normal scenario," 25 (47.2%) had this preference for the "seriously abnormal scenario," and 24 (45.3%) for the "indeterminate scenario."

The patients were also asked whether they thought they would prefer the online portal notification compared with the methods they had received before.

The researchers found that 76.6% said they were satisfied with the methods they had experienced, whereas 90.6% said they would be satisfied with the portal method. In addition, 81.1% of the participants said they would be likely or very likely to use the portal system if it was available and 43.4% said they would prefer it over any other method of notification (eg, a phone call, a letter, an email, or a return appointment with their physician).

"The major implication is that at least a subset of patients want the option for very rapid access to actual written radiologic reports and would use… multiple resources to better understand report contents…" conclude Johnson and team.

"We suggest that the effects of immediate access on patient anxiety and autonomy among a more diverse population of patients, as well as effects of such access on provider workflow, need to be studied."

By Chloe McIvor

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