Should Radiologists Deliver Results Directly to Patients?


Should radiologists immediately deliver the exam results? Are there certain situations where it is more appropriate to do so, and what about the time required to consult with the patient about the result?

Should radiologists deliver results immediately after the imaging exam?

It’s a question posed to a Diagnostic Imaging LinkedIn group that continues to generate debate.

On one hand patients tend to want results immediately. They certainly have the right to demand timely information, and why not receive that information from the specialist with the expertise of the scan and the knowledge of the particular result?

However, the radiologist might not have a complete case history on the patient or be prepared to discuss implications or a treatment plan. The radiologist might not be as familiar with the case as the referring physician. And perhaps that referring physician should be notified first, and might be reluctant to give up control of the case.

One respondent on the LinkedIn thread had an interesting point about patient demand driving a change in the radiologists role: “I believe we will continue to see an increasing demand by patients for more immediate results, and radiology practices will have to do a better job of explaining the workflow process to those patients, or risk losing a percentage of their business to concierge practices that will, in fact, provide more immediate results and personal service.”

Similarly, our own blogger Mark Klein recently wrote about how patients don’t always consider their radiologists as their physicians. But he argued that radiologists are in a unique position to provide some comfort and compassion to patients. “Our future depends on demonstrating that we add substantially more than we cost to the healthcare equation,” he wrote.

So, I wonder. How does the radiologist’s evolving role affect that relationship? Should radiologists deliver the exam results? Are there certain situations where it is more appropriate to do so, such as if the results are negative? But what about more complex cases? Do you deliver the good news, but not the bad?

And what about the time required (and of course, the reimbursement) to consult with the patient about the result?

Tell us what you think.

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