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Survey Reveals Consumer Understanding of Medical Imaging


Patient familiarity with a medical imaging test makes them more likely move forward with the test, according to a survey of U.S. adult attitudes toward imaging released at RSNA this week.

Patient and consumer familiarity with a medical imaging test makes them more likely move forward with the test, according to a survey of U.S. adult attitudes toward imaging. The survey, released at RSNA 2011 by the Siemens Radiation Reduction Alliance, polled more than 1,000 adults about the use of medical imaging exams, followed by five scenarios where respondents had to decide whether to move forward with a test for themselves or a loved one recommended by the physician.

"We undertook this survey to address patient concerns that doctors deal with at the practice level every day when it comes to medical imaging," said Marilyn Siegel, MD, professor of radiology and pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and a physician on the panel, which was established to advance dose reduction. "Patients are daunted by the choices they need to make for themselves or someone else, including whether the examination is needed, whether it is the best option, and what are the risks and advantages."

The familiar technologies correspond to the percentage of consumers who would consent to the test, the survey found. Nearly all (96 percent) were familiar with X-rays, and 88 percent would agree to move forward with one. CT scans followed with 94 percent familiar and 80 percent willing to move forward with one. Least familiar was nuclear heart scan technology: 39 percent had either heard of or had the test, and only 28 percent said they would follow the physician’s recommendation to have the scan.

Forty-one percent of respondents understood that radiation exposure was a risk associated with medical imaging, but they were unsure of which technologies use radiation, the survey found.

"There is a big opportunity here to provide more education to our patients about the differences between various imaging tests," said Cynthia McCollough, PhD, a medical physicist from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a SIERRA panel scientist. "While some tests are similar with regard to the information they provide, their cost and potential risks, there are many situations where one type of imaging exam is more accurate, faster, safer or less expensive. Knowing about these differences can help patients understand why their physician has recommended one test versus another."

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