PACS alerts boost communication of unexpected findings

Healthcare providers can reduce the risks associated with unread radiology reports that contain significant or unexpected findings by integrating electronic alert systems into PACS, according to a study published online this month in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

While the problem of communicating these kinds of findings to referring physicians has bedeviled radiologists in the past, the development of comprehensive information technology should provide solutions, according to study co-author Sara Hayes of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and colleagues. The question has been how to get RIS and PACS to accurately identify these reports and then get them into the hands of referring physicians.

The global PACS market is predicted to reach $6.1 billion by 2018, according to a report published last fall.

The JACR study's authors reported on the development of a PACS-integrated key word system in which an email was sent to a referring physician when a radiologist detected a chest radiograph with an unexpected or unusual finding. Of 39,665 chest radiographs performed over a 14-month period, 158 were assigned key words. Those studies were 11.4 percent benign, 27.8 percent likely benign, 41.8 percent indeterminate, 14.6 percent likely malignant and 4.4 percent with a malignant appearance.

The average time that it took for the referring clinicians to acknowledge the alert was 3.1 days, although 57 percent of the alerts were acknowledged in less than 24 hours.

Leonard Berlin, a radiologist at Skokie Hospital and a professor of radiology at Rush University and the University of Illinois College of Medicine, told RSNA News last summer that most lawsuits involving a failure of communication deal with a failure to directly communicate significant unexpected findings.

 To learn more:
- see the study
- read the article in RSNA News