Access to Electronic Health Records Aids Radiologist Decisions

May 7, 2014

Clinical data provided to radiologists via electronic health records can have a significant impact on radiological interpretations.

Additional clinical data derived from electronic health records (EHRs) influenced radiological interpretations, which aided in effective medical management, according to a study published in the journal Health Affairs.

Researchers from Indiana, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Kentucky sought to estimate the significance of EHR access in emergent neuroradiologic interpretations through a prospective expert-rater analysis of head CT scans that had been ordered by emergency department physicians.

Three neuroradiologists analyzed 2,000 consecutive head CT scans and for each exam compared the medical information generated by the emergency department physicians to the additional information retrieved by interpreting radiologists who had access to EHR patient data.

The results showed that in 6.1 percent of the head CT exams, the neuroradiologists reached consensus “that the additional clinical data derived from the EHR was ‘very likely’ to influence radiological interpretations and that the lack of that data would have adversely affected medical management in those patients.”

In 22 percent of cases, the additional clinical information found in the EHR was rated as "possibly" having a clinically significant impact on the interpretation of the head CT.

Additional information provide in the EHR that was rated as “very likely” to affect medical care was cancer history, treatment history, elevated risk of hemorrhage, symptoms of infection, immunocompetency, immigrant status, pregnancy status, metabolic derangements and laboratory values.

"This study exemplifies the power of EHRs and their potential impact on patient care and positive outcomes,” coauthor John L. Ulmer, MD, in a release. “Health care providers must recognize the value of implementing EHRs and foster their widespread adoption." Ulmer is a professor of radiology and chief of neuroradiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin.