Assessment of follow-up completeness and notification preferences for imaging findings of possible cancer: what happens after radiologists submit their reports?

Acad Radiol. 2014 Dec;21(12):1579-86. doi: 10.1016/j.acra.2014.07.006. Epub 2014 Aug 30.


Rationale and objectives: To understand the reasons leading to potentially inappropriate management of imaging findings concerning for malignancy and identify optimal methods for communicating these findings to providers.

Materials and methods: We identified all abdominal imaging examinations with findings of possible cancer performed on six randomly selected days in August to December 2013. Electronic medical records (EMR) of one patient group were reviewed 3 months after the index examination to determine whether management was appropriate (completed follow-up or documented reason for no follow-up) or potentially inappropriate (no follow-up or no documented reason). Providers of a second patient group were contacted 5-6 days after imaging examinations to determine notification preferences.

Results: Among 43 patients in the first group, five (12%) received potentially inappropriate management. Reasons included patient loss to follow-up and provider failure to review imaging results, document known imaging findings, or communicate findings to providers outside the health system. Among 16 providers caring for patients in the second group, 33% were unaware of the findings, 75% preferred to be notified of abnormal findings via e-mail or EMR, 56% wanted an embedded hyperlink enabling immediate follow-up order entry, and only 25% had a system to monitor whether patients had completed ordered testing.

Conclusions: One in eight patients did not receive potentially necessary follow-up care within 3 months of imaging findings of possible cancer. Automated notification of imaging findings and follow-up monitoring not only is desired by providers but can also address many of the reasons we found for inappropriate management.

Keywords: Follow-up; communication; continuity of patient care; physician practice patterns.

MeSH terms

  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards*