Access to radiologic reports via a patient portal: clinical simulations to investigate patient preferences

J Am Coll Radiol. 2012 Apr;9(4):256-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2011.12.023.


Purpose: The aim of this study was to determine (1) the patient-preferred timing characteristics of a system for online patient access to radiologic reports and (2) patient resource needs and preferences after exposure to reports.

Methods: Adult outpatients from a single imaging center completed researcher-administered electronic questionnaires. Participants were exposed to 3 simulated clinical scenarios and asked to answer questions on the basis of what they thought they would do in each. Scenarios included symptomatology and written radiology reports that were nearly normal, seriously abnormal, and indeterminate, with reports containing typical medical terminology. Participants were asked about preferred timing for online access to reports, communication methods, educational resources, and alternative formats. McNemar's test correlated proportions and generalized estimating equations were used to evaluate responses.

Results: Participants (n = 53) most often preferred immediate access to reports: 32 (60.2%) for the nearly normal scenario, 25 (47.2%) for the seriously abnormal scenario, and 24 (45.3%) for the indeterminate scenario. Three-day delayed access was next most commonly preferred: 15 (28.3%), 19 (35.8%), and 19 (35.8%), respectively. Forty-two participants (79.2%) preferred the portal method of notification over ways they have historically gotten results, with an increased proportion being satisfied with it overall (P < .04). Most would use a variety of educational resources and found alternative lay language conclusions and hyperlinks helpful.

Conclusions: Some outpatients want immediate online access to complete, written radiologic reports and would use multiple resources to understand report contents. Effects of immediate access on provider workflow and on anxiety and autonomy among a diverse population of patients still need to be studied.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Needs Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • North Carolina
  • Patient Access to Records / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Preference / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Radiology Information Systems / statistics & numerical data*