RSNA: Radiologists mixed on providing test results directly to patients

The federal government is pushing for patients to have quick, electronic access to their lab and radiology results, but not all providers are ready to fully embrace the idea of providing radiology reports directly to patients just yet.

As part a discussion at the Radiological Society of North America's annual conference in Chicago this week, radiologist Richard Taxin (pictured at right) of Delaware County, Pa.-based Crozer-Keystone Health System outlined the pros and cons of giving patients direct access to their results, saying that oftentimes, doing so can result in more confusion and anxiety for patients.

Taxin talked about his opposition to a state bill proposed in Pennsylvania 2009 (HB 1358), that called for all entities performing diagnostic imaging services to send test results directly to patients.

"It was a bad bill," Taxin said. "It was an unfunded legislative mandate."

Taxin added that the bill interfered with the doctor-patient relationship and had the potential to create a new standard of care.

"The potential significant risks of confusion and malpractice … and for misunderstanding would be great," he said.

In contrast, Curtis Langlotz (left), a radiologist and medical director of information services at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, talked about the success of a three-month pilot program one hospital in his system rolled out that enabled patients to access abdominal imaging, breast imaging and interventional radiology studies over a patient portal.

While radiologists preliminarily were concerned that they would be flooded with patient phone calls about their results, Langlotz said that the hospital received only four patient calls over the three months, none of which were related to the report types used in the project.

"When patients are engaged, they can be part of the process and ensure that the right care happens," Langlotz said. "Our rationale was that many patients would enjoy electronic access."

In June 2012, the program was expanded to include all three hospitals in the Penn Medicine Health System.

Annette Johnson (right), an associate professor of radiology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, talked about similar results a small survey conducted by her facility found. Out of 53 patients surveyed, 79 percent said they would prefer to receive radiology test results via a patient portal. Ninety-two percent of respondents said they experienced anxiety while waiting to receive a phone call about radiology test results.

While Johnson said that the study was "too small to generalize any patient population," she also said that the feedback shouldn't be ignored.

"Patients should be able to choose how they receive their results," she said.