Web-based surveys aim to better radiologists' lives

March 16, 2006

Radiologists are increasingly being asked to complete surveys via the Web for a variety of information gathering purposes. Three such surveys are part of attempts to improve the lives of radiologists by understanding their stress levels and stressors, their electronic patient history needs, and their views on 3D image interpretation.

Radiologists are increasingly being asked to complete surveys via the Web for a variety of information gathering purposes. Three such surveys are part of attempts to improve the lives of radiologists by understanding their stress levels and stressors, their electronic patient history needs, and their views on 3D image interpretation.

Dr. Bruce Reiner and Dr. Eliot Siegel of the VA Baltimore Medical Center and University of Maryland Medical Center recently unveiled the Radiologists' Personality Profile Survey.

They want to better understand radiologists' stress levels and various contributory factors, including the greater complexity of studies and heightened medicolegal risk. They also want to appreciate the relationship of personality, perceived stress, technology, and practice environment in creating unique stressors that perhaps can be addressed through global modifications.

"While we are intuitively well aware of stress within the radiology practice, little research has been done to date to investigate this problem, which may have substantial implications for work performance and job satisfaction," Reiner said.

Results of the survey will be posted on Diagnostic Imaging's Web site some time this year.

A collaboration among Stanford University, the VA Maryland Health Care System, and GE Healthcare has resulted in the ongoing 3D Image Interpretation Survey. This investigation seeks to learn how radiologists use 3D visualization and how the introduction of an integrated PACS/3D workstation may affect this use.

"We hope to be able to help radiologists optimize the use of 3D interpretation tools in a hybrid 2D/3D interpretation environment," said Denny Lau, a medical informatics engineer at GE.

A local paper version of the survey indicated that radiologists would use 3D more often given an optimal design. The survey also revealed that radiologists would find the transition easier if the PACS/3D workstation were integrated, Lau said.

Currently, 3D workstations target two audiences: radiologists and technologists. Techs generally spend more time on image manipulation than do radiologists. But what features would radiologists use the most and how much time would they expect to save? The survey designers hope to answer these questions.

"Better understanding radiologists' expectations can serve as a way for us to prioritize certain functions over others and to create features that have fast response times," Lau said.

For example, if radiologists expect to shave two minutes off each CT interpretation with an integrated 3D PACS/workstation, then designers can use that as a threshold. They can make timesaving functions more easily available, while keeping time-laden features secondary.

Lau also said they hope to better characterize differences between beginner and expert users to help designers develop features that can suit both

user populations, enabling faster adoption of 3D visualization.

Dr. William Boonn, a radiology resident at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues are conducting yet another survey.

Boonn received a research grant for the survey from the Society for Computer Applications in Radiology, and he will present its preliminary data at the 2006 SCAR meeting in late April.

The survey, which will assess the information technology needs of radiologists, is a part of a larger project to design and implement a clinical dashboard/portal for radiology decision support.

Preliminary data indicate that many radiologists need more clinical information about their patients and that they frequently access previous radiology reports. Researchers crafted a top five wish list from respondents of IT resources:

  • access to images from other institutions

  • access to supporting scientific literature

  • access to online textbooks

  • incorporation of images into reports

  • reminders to obtain clinical follow-up

Many radiologists do not believe that their information needs are being met. The challenge is to identify which elements of associated patient data are most important and to integrate access to these data in such a way as to optimize benefits but minimize visual interruption and time costs, Boonn said.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Digital radiology enables Orwellian quality assurance

Experts ditch paper for automated digital consent

Digital dashboards track workflow, speed reporting

Big Brother watches over verification times