Teleradiology reporting gets the fax straight

April 7, 2004

Baptist Health System in San Antonio has turned to commercial fax software to expedite and streamline after-hours teleradiology reports. The new system allows radiologists to fax initial reports directly to an emergency department, eliminating the need

Baptist Health System in San Antonio has turned to commercial fax software to expedite and streamline after-hours teleradiology reports. The new system allows radiologists to fax initial reports directly to an emergency department, eliminating the need to first dictate reports to a technologist.

"The system has dramatically reduced the number of telephone calls between technologists and teleradiologists," said Dr. Morgan Dunne of Baptist's radiology department.

For the past four years, Baptist has used a commercial fax system (WinFax Pro, Symantec) running on a laptop. The system allows the radiologist to create a report rapidly by typing brief sentences into a blank field or by selecting an applicable pretyped report from a menu.

Baptist's on-call teleradiologist typically receives between 60 and 70 cases each night, mostly CT and sonography studies from the emergency department.

In the past, technologists scanned and sent the images to the teleradiologist's home. The technologists would follow up with a telephone call to obtain a verbal preliminary report. The preliminary report was then handwritten by the technologist and faxed to the emergency department.

"The possibility of a harried teleradiologist dictating a report over the phone to an equally harried technologist resulting in misinterpretation, misspelling, and misunderstanding was a concern," Dunne said.

The system was also fraught with frustration.

"Technologists were frequently caught between demanding emergency physicians seeking prompt reports and an extremely busy teleradiologist trying to expedite the same reports," Dunne said.

The laptop-fax system is configured in the radiologists' home using a wireless phone jack that gives the laptop access to a dedicated fax line anywhere in the home.

The fax software telephone book is primed with fax numbers for all covered emergency and radiology departments. The group faxing facility allows a given report to be sent to both the emergency and radiology departments with one click. A copy of the preliminary report is available to the onsite radiologist in the morning.

The system is popular among emergency physicians because they now receive legible preliminary reports directly from the teleradiologist.

"The technologists have embraced the system enthusiastically," Dunne said. "They now have only to transmit the images to the teleradiologist and go on to the next case - they no longer have to take dictation over the phone or fax reports to the emergency department."