For professional backup, aviators have autopilot, writers have spellcheck. Some physicians receive alerts if an action has been overlooked or an important finding must be communicated quickly, such as a radiologist’s alert to contact the ED about a patient’s blood clot. These notifications can be very valuable, but too many can backfire and cause alert fatigue. Here are three reasons radiology management should seek balance when it comes to automated alerts.
1. Alerts Can Help Speed Up Radiologist Communication.
A recent study found that physician communication improved after an automated alert notification system was implemented. In the study, critical imaging results were embedded in the workflow of radiologists and referring physicians, and results were automatically sent via email or pager. As part of the study, each alert was color coded per the radiologist’s finding to categorize its urgency, with red, orange and yellow indicating levels.
Systems such as a QICS help facilitate physician communication and reduce delays due to missed phone calls and playing “phone tag.” This is particularly valuable when radiologists are contacting referring physicians at various locations, such as nursing homes, clinics and physical therapy offices. A system can allow a referring facility to choose who receives the alert with the radiologist’s finding, further speeding up communication with a nursing home about a patient’s condition – for example, if a worrisome steatosis is spotted. Alerts help radiologists respond quickly to referring physicians at various facilities and help eliminate time waste.
2. Be Aware of “Alert Fatigue.”
At the same time, too many alerts can have a detrimental effect. When physicians are overloaded with notifications, they may eventually ignore them or turn off the alert function. Thankfully technology is now available that allows sites to set rules-based alerts based on very specific conditions. This enables users to fine tune how often and when alerts are sent, preventing unnecessary notifications by group, sub-specialty or individuals.
3. Automated Functions Can Help Improve Patient Care.
When a critical finding, such as stroke or aneurysm, warrants an urgent communication, alerts can help improve patient care by ensuring that critical findings are quickly relayed to the ED. Alerts can also help ensure that non-emergent, but still important, incidental findings are communicated. When a patient is given a CT scan to diagnose pneumonia and the radiologist sees indications of emphysema, the referring physician can receive an alert about that finding and follow up with appropriate care. Alerts can act as backup for both critical and incidental findings, speeding physician communication so that care can be given more quickly.
Going to RSNA next week? Request a demo for QICS at booth 7313 North Hall. You can also stay up-to-date on the latest medical imaging news by following the McKesson Enterprise Medical Imaging showcase page.