Issue: There are signs of inappropriate application of medical imaging to diagnosis. Inappropriate imaging is a threat to effective diagnosis and effective allocation of resources. The development and deployment of knowledge-based clinical decision support systems is one strategy to reduce inappropriate imaging. DEVELOPMENT OF IMAGING PATHWAYS: A suite of 78 imaging pathways was conceived both as a decision support and educational tool. The pathways were drafted by imaging specialists, but further developed and modified, based on graded evidence and input from requesting clinicians. An electronic environment was developed to contain and deliver the pathways. DISSEMINATION AND IMPLEMENTATION: Imaging pathways were distributed via a hospital local area network and on compact disk. A multifaceted approach was used to raise general awareness of the pathways, followed by intensive 'marketing' activities. Two groups of clinicians were targeted; hospital-based clinicians and general practitioners.
Evaluation: There was increased awareness of imaging pathways. Clinicians judged them to be useful for education and decision support. The method of electronic delivery was adequate. Knowledge of diagnostic imaging and requesting behaviour tended to become more aligned with the pathways. The central objective to reduce inappropriate medical imaging seems to be achievable.
Lessons learned: There is scope to improve the content and the electronic environment, achieve better integration into decision-making processes, and achieve better compliance. A linkage between imaging pathways and electronic requesting could provide alerts to 'non-compliant' requesting. The assignment of a higher cost, or a lower remuneration, to non-authorized and non-compliant imaging would provide tangible incentive to comply, unless there are compelling clinical contraindications.