Waiting, Wondering About Radiology Results Irks Patients

WEDNESDAY Nov. 4, 2009 -- Many patients don't like how long it takes to receive the results of radiology tests and aren't happy with the lack of information when they do get the results, a U.S. study has found.

Radiology imaging tests include MRI, CT, ultrasound, mammography and X-ray.

"Most of the patients in our study were decidedly dissatisfied with how they find out about their radiology test results. Specifically, they were unhappy with the delay before getting results and the lack of detail when they do find out what the tests showed," lead investigator Dr. Annette J. Johnson, an associate professor of radiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, said in a university news release.

"The classic, most common story we heard was that the patient went to her doctor for a symptom such as pain, was sent for an MRI and then heard nothing until their next regular doctor's appointment," Johnson said. "Then, when the patient asked what the MRI showed, her doctor gave a generic answer -- 'Everything was fine.' The patients in our study said that they don't want to hear 'fine' weeks after the test. They want to know details and they want to know them as soon as the results are in."

The patients in the study were asked about their experiences with radiology imaging tests, what they want to know from the tests, and how they would like to learn about the results.

Johnson and colleagues found that patients "want their results quickly, in writing, and they want detailed information about the test results in language they can understand."

Many patients said they'd like a secure way to see their results online as soon as they're available. That would give them time before the next doctor's appointment to prepare questions, learn more about their condition or disease, and get a jump on setting up referrals if needed. Being able to see their test results would help them play an active role in their care.

The study findings are published in the November issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

More information

The Radiological Society of North America has more about radiology tests.

Posted: November 2009


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