Understand how we got here — and how to move forward.


April 26, 2016

Radiology recommendations frequently ignored, study finds

Daily Briefing

Nearly one-third of radiology results that call for further clinical action are not acted upon, according to a retrospective study of patient records, Damian McNamara reports for Medscape.

For the study, presented at the American Roentgen Ray Society 2016 Annual Meeting, researchers reviewed more than 6,800 patient reports generated at a large Massachusetts medical center in January 2014. The researchers identified 857 reports that included 972 radiological recommendations, of which:

  • 63 percent recommended additional imaging;
  • 24 percent called for clinical correlation;
  • 7 percent advised a non-imaging procedure;
  • 4 percent dealt with laboratory tests; and
  • 2 percent related to consultations with specialists.

Next, researchers examined patient charts to determine rates of follow-through. Overall, just 67 percent of the radiology recommendations were followed.

Of the recommendations that were not followed, 61 percent were documented in a referring physician's notes but not accepted by the physician, no longer considered clinically relevant, or lost to follow up.

Of the remaining 39 percent of recommendations that were not documented, the researchers identified 43 percent as significant, including several relating to cancer concerns, such as lung nodules requiring follow-up.

Researchers ID America's most costly medical mistake

Alexander Norbash, a study investigator from the University of San Diego, says it is concerning that so many recommendations were not followed. "We found 55 patients in one month; that adds up over a year," he notes. Study investigator Nadja Kadom, from Emory University, says the takeaway for providers is that they cannot assume that referring physicians will always follow recommendations.

But the study authors say there are ways providers can improve, such as using:

  • Dedicated radiology staff;
  • Patient navigators; and
  • Modern information technology systems.

"These solutions may seem costly, but health enterprises need to weigh the cost of medicolegal actions from missed cancers or other adverse outcomes against the cost of investing in preventive measures," Kadom explains (McNamara, Medscape, 4/21).

The new radiology quality mandate

Learn 14 tactics to elevate imaging’s value proposition by improving the quality of clinician performance and expanding the scope of radiology to encompass patient activation and population health.

Downlaod the study

More from today's Daily Briefing
  1. Current ArticleRadiology recommendations frequently ignored, study finds

Have a Question?


Ask our experts a question on any topic in health care by visiting our member portal, AskAdvisory.