How do patients want to receive their results in the 21st century?

Author(s): Dr Julie Cox

Hospital: City Hospital Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust

Reference: RAD Magazine, 45, 531, 14


Radiology communication with patients has traditionally been indirect. Radiologists throughout the world receive requests for imaging from referring clinicians and send written reports of examinations back to referrers, leaving the patient out of the communication loop. Direct communication with patients by radiologists has been proposed previously by eminent radiological authors such as Berlin, the doyenne of sage opinion on the topics of error and malpractice in clinical radiology, but this practice has never taken widespread hold internationally. In the UK, the NHS Breast Screening Programme has always been a notable exception to the referrer-led communication pattern and an early adopter of direct communication. Breast screening programmes usually communicate client test results directly as, of course, there is no direct referrer and in the absence of symptoms a patient is a client or participant.

An early survey of 400 patients in the context of breast screening that involved conveying the results of screening mammograms to patients concluded that patients preferred a double-read delayed report with the results sent to them via post rather than an immediate single-read report by a radiologist on the same day as the mammogram. This insight is interesting in that, in this series, the patients questioned appear to have understood the benefits of the additional quality assurance that the double report of images could bring, and valued that over an immediate response and result. Whether the results of such a survey would be the same 20 years later, with society’s current level of demand for immediacy, is debatable.

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