Reading rooms in clinical areas increase face-to-face time with referring docs

Institutions should consider embedding radiology reading rooms in clinical areas, rather than in one centrally located area to increase face-to-face time between radiologists and clinicians, according to new research published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

For the study, researchers, led by Allison A. Tillack, Ph.D., of University of California, San Francisco, and James Borgstede, M.D., of University of Colorado at Denver, observed 175 episodes of communication between radiologists and referring physicians in four study reading room--100 in embedded rooms, and 75 in nonembedded rooms. They found there to be a "highly significant difference in the percentage of visits and critical test result management messages sent between embedded and nonembedded reading rooms."

Specifically, of the 100 episodes of communication between radiologists and referring physicians in the embedded reading rooms, 47 percent took place via the telephone, 46 percent were in person, and 7 percent occurred via a critical test result management system. Of the 75 episodes of communication involving nonembedded reading rooms, 53 percent took place over the phone, 40 percent via a critical test result management system, and just 7 percent were face-to-face.

"The value of this study emerges from the documentation of the high degree of variability among institutions in communication practices among different kinds of radiologists and referring physicians," the authors wrote. "The extent of these different practices among the four reading rooms has important implications for future studies of communication patterns between radiologists and referring providers, as well as for designing effective interventions to enhance the role of radiologists as consultants."

In a study published last year in JACR, Tillack and Richard Breiman, M.D., also of the department of radiology at UCSF, looked at how PACS adoption had impacted professional relationships between radiologists and referring providers. They concluded that because PACS have caused a reduction in referring provider visits to the reading room, radiologists need to look for new opportunities for forming personal relationships with colleagues. "This is not just a problem of less communication," they said, "but the kinds of communication and the ways communication takes place."

To learn more:
- see the an article in JACR
- check out the older JACR research