Perspectives on the Use of Image-Rich Radiology Reports

 Use of Image-Rich Radiology Reports

Radiology reports are vital for patient care. Some clinicians can interpret imaging studies on their own, but a report prepared by a radiologist can result in better patient care as it provides more accurate and comprehensive interpretation of the findings. Medical transcription companies help radiologists ensure accurate interpretation of imaging studies and appropriate communication of the findings to attending physicians in a timely manner.

Various studies have reported on benefits of blending images and radiology reports for referring physicians. Researchers have also analyzed clinician preferences in terms of format, content, length, and turnaround time. Musculoskeletal (MSK) radiology, a sub-specialty of diagnostic radiology, plays an important role in evaluation and management of patients with a wide variety of injuries. It involves the imaging of the bones along with cartilage, connective tissue, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons. Musculoskeletal imaging includes:

  • Digital radiography (filmless x-ray)
  • Fluoroscopy (continuous x-ray that shows movement of the body part)
  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Sonography (uses sound waves to generate an image)
  • Ultrasound

Advancements in ultrasound and MRI allow superior visualization of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, increasing the importance of medical imaging in musculoskeletal injury diagnosis and treatment. Let’s take a look at some recent perspectives on image-rich radiology reports and their value for the referring physician.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology in May 2018, clinicians view radiology reports more often than the actual images. This suggests that radiologists’ interpretations are more valuable, wrote researchers from Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore. The team analyzed 7,438 studies and found that radiology reports were examined in 85.7 percent of cases and imaging reports were viewed 53.2 percent of the time (

An August 20, 2019 study published in the Journal of Digital Imaging reported that integrating an audio/visual reporting tool into an emergency department’s musculoskeletal workflow can improve communication between radiologists and referring providers while making imaging findings easier to interpret. All of the participants (attending orthopedic surgeons in the emergency department) said the audiovisual report improved their understanding of complex cases. The audio-visual report enabled speedy evaluation and provided quality information for ordering physicians, which in turn, improved decision making, especially in complex cases.

Health Imaging cited the authors as saying, “Providing clinicians with a supplemental audiovisual report could deliver an engaging experience similar to an in-person consult with the radiologist focused on simplification of a complicated case… Those videos contents could be viewed at the convenience of the ordering provider to minimize disruptions in workflow and retain the radiologist’s essential role in a multidisciplinary team.”

Recent research, which sought to analyze the viewing habits for images and reports, found that ordering clinicians across most specialties utilize musculoskeletal (MSK) radiology reports much more often than images. The findings of the study, as summarized in a Health Imaging article, are as follows:

  • Clinicians viewed MSK reports alone or in addition to the images 96.3% of the time
  • In 51.9% of cases, radiology MSK reports were viewed alone
  • Providers accessed images by themselves without viewing the attached report only 3.7% of the time
  • CT and MRI reports (without images) were viewed most often (in 68.3% of cases)
  • MRI reports were accessed in 57.3% of cases and radiography reports in 48.3% of situations
  • Orthopedists ordered the highest number of MSK studies and accessed reports 99.2% of the time; they viewed reports alone 54.5% of the time and looked at images in only 0.8% of cases
  • Radiology MSK reports were reviewed 96.3% of the time, twice as often as images (48.1%)

The researchers concluded that physicians relied more on the radiologist reports rather than the images.

Image-rich radiology reports can improve communication and also have the potential to boost the work flow efficiency of referring physicians. Today, radiologists need to be focused on delivering meaningful radiology reports that allow clinicians to provide value to both referring providers and patients. Radiology transcription services are a great support when it comes to delivering well-organized, accurate, and meaningful findings radiology reports.