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Study Shows Benefits of Radiologist-Patient Consultations After Neck Ultrasound 


Patients said receiving radiology results and reviewing the images and findings directly with a radiologist after completion of a neck ultrasound was beneficial, according to a new study.

Radiologist-patient consultations after neck ultrasound are desired by most patients and reduce anxiety without a significant increase in examination time, a new study found.

The study, published in Clinical Imaging, included 109 patients who underwent neck ultrasound at University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands between February 2019 and February 2020. Among those, 44 had radiologist-led consultations at the end of the examination. The 65 patients in the other group did not receive consultations from the radiologist, and results were discussed by the referring physician.

The study aimed to evaluate the patient experience and time involved in radiologist-patient consultations at the time of examination as part of a patient-centered medical approach.

“The patients who underwent neck US in this study were generally satisfied about the radiological service that was provided,” the study authors, led by Omer Kasalak, MD, PhD, wrote. “However, anxiety levels can be decreased and the patients' wish can be fulfilled by informing patients of their US results directly after the examination.”

The examinations were timed. Those who received consultations were given the entire result and conclusion of the ultrasound at the time of the exam.

Fifty-eight participants, including 21 who had consultations and 37 who did not, completed surveys about their experience afterward, including questions about the radiologist’s friendliness, skill, communication, and concern for the patient, an overall rating of the examination, and the patient’s level of worry.

Those in the group without radiologist consultations reported being significantly more worried during the examination (P = 0.040) and reported higher anxiety after the examination (P = 0.027). Most participants (92.7%) reported that they considered radiologist-patient consultation to be important.

The average duration of examinations wasn’t significantly affected by consultations. The study found that those that included consultation had a median duration of 7.57 minutes (range: 5.15-12.10 minutes) compared with 7.34 (range: 3.45–14.32 min) among those without consultations (P = 0.637).

Showing ultrasound images reduced explanation time and was appreciated by patients. Patients were directed to ask questions about therapy and prognosis during follow-up appointments with the referring physicians.

“Value-based health care is a concept that aims at improving patient outcomes by considering first those factors that matter most to patients without increasing costs,” the authors wrote. “Our results indicate that a radiologist-patient consultation of imaging findings after neck US can be considered as value-based healthcare. Therefore, it can be recommended for routine implementation in clinical practice.”

Limitations of the study include that it only included patients undergoing neck ultrasound and may not be applicable to other examinations or to those performed by sonographers rather than radiologists. Referring specialties also varied between the two study arms. Results may not be generalizable to other radiologists, only about half of participants returned surveys, and the study was unable to track whether participants returned to referring physicians for follow-up visits.

“Further research is warranted to finetune how a radiologist-patient consultation of imaging findings after neck US can be best performed in terms of patient satisfaction and time efficiency,” the authors concluded.

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