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How Can We Better Educate Patients About Their Imaging Procedures?

Although radiologists have been working toward strengthening patient communication in recent years, there exists a weak spot in relaying procedural information. According to a study published in Radiology, 22 percent of patients don’t receive pre-examination information for their radiology exams.

"This means one in five people are showing up for the exam without any information about the test they are getting," said Jay K. Pahade, MD, the study’s lead author in a Radiological Society of North America press release. "This is an important finding in today's health care system, where we want more patient engagement and involvement."

The group of researchers from various research hospitals surveyed 1,438 patients across three pediatric and three adult hospitals in various parts of the United States about their experiences undergoing imaging procedures. They found that 78 percent received information about their upcoming test from their physician who prescribed the exam. Fifty-two percent of patients researched the imaging exam themselves. Patients scheduled for MRI or nuclear medicine exams had a higher chance of receiving exam prep information. Parents of pediatric patients were generally very interested in learning about their child’s imaging procedure. Overall, patients were likely to not be interested in radiation-free alternative exams.

"In the radiology realm, we need to take more ownership over the entire imaging process," said Dr. Pahade. "One big gap has been in the pre-imaging part of that process, and the data show we have work to do in closing that gap." He encourages physicians to recommend easily accessible resources like Radiologyinfo.org, which gives detailed explanations on over 230 diseases and imaging procedures like x-ray, CT, MRI, ultrasound, and radiation therapy, among others.

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