Improving Diagnostic Radiology Report Turnaround Times

Radiology Report

Radiologists play an important role in patient care by providing comprehensive radiology reports. Medical transcription companies focus on providing radiologists with accurate and timely radiology reports. The accurate interpretation of imaging studies and appropriate reporting of the imaging findings to attending physicians is vital for patient management and to improve workflow.

In addition to high quality images, radiology reports contain details about clinical presentation, diagnostic impression, examination procedure, and details about contrast administration. They also usually include recommendations on follow-up and other radiological or non-radiological investigations.

Report turnaround time (TAT) is a critical element in diagnostic radiology as delays in reporting affects all stakeholders – the radiologist, referring provider, patient, and administrator. Radiology departments track and seek to improve several types of report turnaround times, which differ for the various stakeholders. defines these TATs as follows:

  • Radiologist – from completion of examination to final report signature
  • Referring provider – from placement of order for examination to receipt of final report
  • Patient – from time of examination to communication of results
  • Administrator – from time of examination to submission of claim or bill

Turnaround times for reports also differ. While some tests such as chest X-rays for pneumonia or CT scans for brain bleeds require 15 minutes to interpret, and others take a longer time to read. TAT in radiology reporting is even more critical in the emergency department (ED). Expediting TAT to generate reports is crucial to increase throughput in the ED and provide better care, says Eric England, MD, assistant professor of radiology at the University of Cincinnati Health (

With the transition to a value-based care model, improving TAT has become an important goal for radiology departments. Here are top strategies that experts recommend to improve radiology TAT:

Improve Practice Workflow and Activities: According to a article, improving radiology practice workflow in the following ways can improve TAT.

  • Carefully evaluate department workflow and activities and make changes that can contribute to lowering TAT. Data mining can help identify bottlenecks.
  • Ensure an efficient RIS/PACS system with well-integrated tools, such as speech, intelligent display protocols, 3D visualization, and other clinical applications
  • Identify, assess and fix paper-based processes that can cause delays
  • Develop a standard set of image viewing instructions for different reading situations
  • Leverage data to support potential investment in new hardware, software, or personnel
  • Train physicians to efficiently use systems for managing and sharing images, teaching files, and reference case information
  • Ensure that PAC systems can support increasing workloads
  • Check whether separating PACS administration from RIS administration can save time

Ensure Proper Study Prioritization

TAT times will fall if radiologists know which scans need to be read first. For this, referring physicians need to be educated on ranking ordered studies based on a patient’s condition or care. This is important to help radiologists generate reports in a timely manner.

Limit Distractions

Another strategy to improve radiology TAT is limiting the activities that don’t impact the report directly, such as phone calls or face-to-face reading room visits. Having dedicated staff to handle phone calls and other matters can prevent such interruptions from slowing down the radiologist.

Implement New Technology

Artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled solutions, structured reporting and voice Recognition are important advancements that can help eliminate time-consuming tasks in radiology. In structured reporting templates, certain portions are automatically completed, which saves time. Voice recognition avoids the need for typing and allows reports to be delivered immediately after the radiologist interprets the diagnostic exam.

However, despite the advantages of voice recognition technology for diagnostic radiology reporting, it comes with certain drawbacks. According to a Radiology Key article, there are many reasons why radiologists remain dissatisfied with speech recognition technology (SRT):

  • SRT has a negative impact on their productivity as the radiologist handles the editing which means that more time is spent on tasks other than image interpretation. The article notes that one study showed a 50% increase in report dictation time as well as an increase in costs by US$6.10 per case with SRT compared with conventional radiology transcription services.
  • SRT leads to a high rate of transcription errors in diagnostic radiology reports. One study which involved two radiologists dictating 100 magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) reports, 50 with VR and 50 with standard transcription, showed that while only 6% to 8% of transcription-generated reports had errors, 30% to 42% of the VR reports contained errors. Up to 22% of reported imaging studies had potentially confusing transcription errors with radiologists greatly underestimating the rate of errors in their reports. Such errors could even lead to misinterpretations of reports.

SRT can definitely improve TAT in radiology reporting. To ensure accuracy as well, imaging reports can be sent for proofreading and editing to a reliable medical transcription company that can expedite these time-sensitive items.

Julie Clements

About Julie Clements

Joined the MOS team in March of 2008. Julie Clements has background in the healthcare staffing arena; as well as 6 years as Director of Sales and Marketing at a 4 star resort. Julie was instrumental in the creation of the medical record review division (and new web site); and has especially grown this division along with data conversion of all kinds.