Purpose: To evaluate the effectiveness of an important finding alert (IFA) system that uses e-mail technology to alert referring physicians to an important but nonurgent imaging finding.
Materials and methods: The institutional review board approved the study; the requirement for informed consent was waived. The authors retrospectively reviewed the radiology reports generated from January 2005 to December 2007 to determine how many reports contained an IFA statement, how many IFA messages were sent, and how many such messages were viewed by referring physicians. They reviewed 1000 randomly selected radiology reports that contained the IFA statement to identify the imaging modalities and findings that triggered the radiologists' use of the IFA system.
Results: A total of 1540254 radiology reports were generated during the 3-year period. A total of 56 691 (3.7%) reports contained the IFA statement. IFA e-mail messages were sent for 52 883 (93.3%) of the 56 691 reports, and 42 285 (74.6%) of the 56 691 reports were viewed by the referring physicians. The most common important but nonurgent findings were definitive (449 [44.9%] of 1000 reports) and indeterminate (260 [26.0%] of 1000 reports) abnormalities. More than half (n = 503) of the alerts were related to computed tomographic examinations, and the majority (n = 677, 67.7%) of them were initiated by thoracic and abdominal radiologists.
Conclusion: The IFA system is a potentially useful method of communicating nonurgent but important imaging findings with use of e-mail technology.