Radiologists report conditional satisfaction with teleradiology

December 12, 2003

As teleradiology case volume grows along with radiologists' experience with the technology, a new survey has investigated whether radiologists' satisfaction with teleradiology is also increasing. The study found that radiologists are generally satisfied,

As teleradiology case volume grows along with radiologists' experience with the technology, a new survey has investigated whether radiologists' satisfaction with teleradiology is also increasing.

The study found that radiologists are generally satisfied, although some improvements could be made.

The University of Arizona conducted the survey (J Digit Imaging, 2003 Oct 2 [electronic publication ahead of print]) of 23 full-time attendings and 10 third- and fourth-year residents in radiology. The radiologists rated teleradiologic image quality as excellent/good but gave more fair/poor ratings to plain film and ultrasound.

Monitors, navigation, image processing, and Web-based reporting were rated as excellent/good. The voice recognition system was rated poor.

Diagnostic confidence was about the same as for film. With MR, ultrasound, and plain film, however, up to 10% of cases are unreadable because of poor image quality, not enough images, or inadequate patient history, the report said.

"One important measure for assessing the impact on the radiologist of providing teleradiology (and PACS) services is to measure user satisfaction," said lead author Elizabeth Krupinski, Ph.D., a research professor of radiology at Arizona.

Survey questions addressed reading volume and modalities, image quality, diagnostic confidence, interface issues, and key positive and negative aspects of the teleradiology program.

While it is difficult to separate teleradiology from PACS in terms of research findings and clinical practice, the impact on radiologists of teleradiology - probably the most mature and well-established clinical specialty within telemedicine - can be significant, Krupinski said.

"In many respects, from the perspective of the radiologist, PACS is simply a shift from one display medium to another," she said. "But studies have shown that radiologist workflow improves as well, because there are fewer interruptions, an increased sharing of work, faster/better access to old images and reports, and less paperwork."

Although the improvement in workflow may leave time for radiologists to read more images, unless the hospital experiences an increase in the need for imaging services, the actual volume of cases is not likely to change significantly simply as a function of going filmless.

"Teleradiology, however, typically represents an increase in case reading volume and thus generally requires some adjustments to be made in department operations and management," Krupinski said.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Globalization comes to radiology Living the imaging life large the digital way

PACS steers a course to systems integration

New markets emerge for PACS and teleradiology