Automated detection of radiology reports that document non-routine communication of critical or significant results

J Digit Imaging. 2010 Dec;23(6):647-57. doi: 10.1007/s10278-009-9237-1.


The purpose of this investigation is to develop an automated method to accurately detect radiology reports that indicate non-routine communication of critical or significant results. Such a classification system would be valuable for performance monitoring and accreditation. Using a database of 2.3 million free-text radiology reports, a rule-based query algorithm was developed after analyzing hundreds of radiology reports that indicated communication of critical or significant results to a healthcare provider. This algorithm consisted of words and phrases used by radiologists to indicate such communications combined with specific handcrafted rules. This algorithm was iteratively refined and retested on hundreds of reports until the precision and recall did not significantly change between iterations. The algorithm was then validated on the entire database of 2.3 million reports, excluding those reports used during the testing and refinement process. Human review was used as the reference standard. The accuracy of this algorithm was determined using precision, recall, and F measure. Confidence intervals were calculated using the adjusted Wald method. The developed algorithm for detecting critical result communication has a precision of 97.0% (95% CI, 93.5-98.8%), recall 98.2% (95% CI, 93.4-100%), and F measure of 97.6% (ß=1). Our query algorithm is accurate for identifying radiology reports that contain non-routine communication of critical or significant results. This algorithm can be applied to a radiology reports database for quality control purposes and help satisfy accreditation requirements.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Automation
  • Decision Making, Computer-Assisted
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Radiography
  • Radiology Information Systems*