Structured Reporting Improves Medical Imaging Communications

2011-06-28
 

structured medical imaging reportsAs medical imaging becomes more integrated into everyday medical practice, the need for clear modes of communicating for medical imaging professionals is more pressing than ever.

Unfortunately, “the style and format of radiology reports have generally remained unaltered” for a number of years, wrote Lawrence H. Schwartz, MD, and co-authors in a recent online issue of Radiology.

Schwartz and his colleagues found that physicians definitely preferred to read “structured” medical imaging reports over “unstructured” ones. This was especially true among non-radiologists. Why? That’s not perfectly clear, but it’s reasonable to assume that the very structure of a structured report immediately tells the non-radiologist what is and isn’t important information.

Schwartz advocates the adoption of more structured medical imaging reports, but he sounds a cautionary note as well. Since non-radiologists are the ones who benefit the most from structured reporting, they have to be involved in developing structured reports. Otherwise, the reports will primarily be for medical imaging professionals communicating with other medical imaging professionals – and that won’t help the physicians or the patients who really benefit from better integration of medical imaging into everyday practice.

Schwartz’s concern signifies what, in retrospect, will probably be seen as a watershed period in medical history. The medical industry  – like nearly all other industries today – is figuring out how to best utilize the vast quantity of information that is now available with a few mouse clicks. Schwartz and others know that key radiology information can greatly benefit primary care givers. What they don’t know is how to effectively harness and communicate that information. Slowly, they will figure it out, along with medical imaging professionals – and so will other medical professionals with other sets of valuable information.

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