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How Should Patients Get Their Image Test Results?

Receiving image test results is generally a nerve-wracking experience for patients. According to a new article published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology online, there are two contrasting schools of thought on how those results should be delivered. Andrea Borondy Kitts, MPH, MS, a patient advocate and researcher at Lahey Hospital in Connecticut, believes that patients should have the right to choose if they first want to review test results with a physician or go over them before the appointment in order to prepare questions. Andre Konski, MBA, MD, professor of clinical radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, says results should only be delivered by a physician to prevent alarming misinterpretations.

“I propose that patients be able to select their desired methods of receiving both images and radiologists’ reports at the time their tests are ordered,” Borondy Kitts explained. “At the imaging site, at the time of the test, the preferred method would be verified, similar to how identity and insurance information is identified. This would help avoid inadvertent early sharing of results for patients not wanting to see their results without a physician present and would also provide legal protection for any adverse effects of providing results directly to patients.”

Borondy Kitts recommends several precautions, including “patient-friendly summaries of radiology reports,” and written guides detailing the anxiety and confusion that comes with trying to understand image reports before their physician visit.

Konski, on the other hand, insists that reviewing scan reports before going over them with a physician can lead to unnecessary panic. He says that at least once a year he receives a call from an anxious patient who was alarmed by their post-high-dose stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) CT scan report. “I now, as a part of my consultation, inform patients who are about to undergo lung SBRT that follow-up CT scans may show abnormalities that could be interpreted as disease progression and not to be concerned until they speak with me,” he wrote.

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