When a radiologist's RADAR goes off

February 11, 2006

While physicians apologizing to patients for mistakes is good medicine, the best scenario is one in which errors don't occur. Researchers have developed various software programs linked to the radiologist's report that "red flag" significant findings and automatically generate communication to the referring physician.

While physicians apologizing to patients for mistakes is good medicine, the best scenario is one in which errors don't occur. Researchers have developed various software programs linked to the radiologist's report that "red flag" significant findings and automatically generate communication to the referring physician.

One such program is called RADAR, for Radiology Alert and Data Accrual Registry. Developed by Dr. Richard Chesbrough, director of the mortality/morbidity legal course at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, the program will automatically notify referring physicians when the radiologist dictates "RADAR alert, important finding" at the end of the report. It will also document the process in the final report.

If a patient has experienced some complication associated with his or her imaging exam, such as IV contrast reaction, pain, or even the perception of rude treatment, the radiologist simply dictates "RADAR-risk management" at the end of the report. The program will send a copy of the report to risk management and the department chair.

"This type of program helps hospital administration move quickly to take corrective action and avert a potential legal liability," Chesbrough said. "Often, an apology and explanation to the patient and/or family is all that is needed. In other cases, the hospital will want to work with the patient to void certain medical bills. The hospital and legal department may offer a small monetary remedy to the injured patient, to avoid more costly litigation later." -CPK