It's not uncommon for some doctors, and certainly many patients, to be confused after reading a radiology report.
With a reliance on professional jargon, it’s not always crystal clear what radiologists mean in their interpretations of MRI and CT scans, according to Medscape Medical News. It’s all the more disconcerting when the radiologists aim to pass on news about cancer.
So it’s no surprise that there is a movement afoot for radiologists to eliminate the jargon, write reports with greater clarity and adopt more standardized reporting, according to the publication.
It’s even more critical now that many patients can access their radiology reports on patient portals, experts said. Reports that reveal whether a patient has cancer or whether a disease has spread can land patients in their doctor’s office in tears.
Jennifer Kemp, M.D., a diagnostic radiologist in Denver, learned how hard it can be for the average patient to understand a report when her own husband was diagnosed with cancer. "I was absolutely shocked that the terms that I had grown so accustomed to were phrases that my husband found confusing and sometimes alarming," she told the publication.
And there’s confusion among even veteran doctors. For instance, a 2016 study found there was a discrepancy about what the phrase “consistent with" metastatic disease means. In fact, not all radiologists interpret the phrase to mean the same thing.
"There is a disconnect between what we are saying and people are understanding—and that's a problem," Andrew J. Gunn, M.D., from the University of Alabama Birmingham, who was the lead author of the study, told the publication.
So there’s an effort underway to make information in radiology reports simple and clear. It’s the same message being conveyed to physicians to improve the patient experience. Don’t speak to patients using medical terms that are foreign to them. Eliminate all the healthcare jargon and acronyms that just confuse patients.