Structured Feedback From Referring Physicians Helps Radiologists

October 1, 2013

Radiologists may improve their reports by receiving structured feedback from the referring physicians.

Radiologists who receive structured feedback from referring physicians may learn of reporting problems that may not be immediately obvious, according to a study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

In an effort to improve radiology reporting practices, researchers from Harvard Medical School in Boston assessed a peer review technique for radiologists that included structured feedback from referring physicians. Five physicians were recruited as reviewers.

The reviewers assessed 48 randomly chosen reports of abdominal CT that were performed on patients presenting with abdominal pain; chest CT for shortness of breath; brain MRI for headache; and abdominal ultrasound for pain. Follow up reports and normal examinations were not included in this study.

The reviewers, who had been informed of the clinical scenarios, found that the reports were clinically useful, rating them 3.8 on a scale of 1 to 5. Problems detected by the reviewers included unclear language, typographical errors, and reports that did not address the clinical issue.

According to the reviewers, 35.4 percent of the reports contained clinical recommendations for further diagnosis or treatment; 84.7 percent were clinically appropriate. The reviewers thought that 31.2 percent of the examinations should have been directly communicated to the ordering provider.

The findings of this small study indicate that structured feedback from referring physicians can inform radiologists of problems with the reports that they may not know exist. This feedback may help improve reporting practices.