December 10, 2014
Over the last decade, the way we consume information has changed radically. Sure, reading the Sunday newspaper by the fireplace on a cold winter morning remains a rare treat. But curated content through Twitter or pushed content to my inbox that links me to constantly updated media outlet websites is now my main channel for information. Those sites are increasingly interactive, and like many readers I frequently view hyperlinked images, figures and charts to supplement my reading experience.
So why hasn’t radiology kept up with the times? For decades, radiology reporting has remained pretty much the same: free-form findings and text in a report. I believe referring physicians want more. A radiologist’s most valuable product is not laser toner on paper—it’s meaningful and actionable information. And the way we choose to consume our news should provide guidance on how to deliver diagnostic findings.
What if we could embed interactive hyperlinks to critical images—as well as quantitative analysis in the form of tables for vessel analysis or lesion management—into our reports? Referring physicians could navigate to these bookmarks in seconds directly from our reports, and so could our patients.
Technological enablers now exist to permit radiologists to offer this higher level of reporting. With this technology now coming to market, I was part of a team that compared referring physician satisfaction with multi-media enhanced reporting (MMER) to standard reporting. In an electronic poster entitled: “Traditional Text-Only vs. Multimedia Enhanced Radiology Reporting (MERR): Referring Physicians’ Perceptions of Value,” colleagues from Emory University, Carestream Health, and I presented our results from a survey of 200 U.S. medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, neurosurgeons and pulmonologists last week at RSNA.
About 80% of respondents said multi-media enhanced reports “improved understanding of radiology findings by correlating images to text reports” and delivered “easier access to images while monitoring progression of a disease/condition.” That was no surprise.
The real wow for me, though, was that just as many physicians indicated that such enhanced reporting would “increase the likelihood of referring patients to facilities that offer multi-media reporting.” That’s a pretty powerful message to radiologists and radiology administrators: give your customers what they want or they’ll take their business elsewhere.
The decision to deliver meaningful and actionable information—or not—will likely have a profound effect on imaging referral habits as this reporting technology enters the marketplace. Early adopters are likely to gain a referral advantage and secondary adopters will then be relegated to playing catch up for years to come.
While we should all be striving to add value to our work for value’s sake—just because it benefits our patients—the marketplace in which we practice is not so altruistic. Winning hospitals and practices will be the ones that provide stakeholders what they want. Based on our survey, referring physicians want more than just old-fashioned, text-based reporting.
The only way to fight off commoditization is by providing value. Delivering meaningful and actionable information is a powerful way to do just that.