Survey-Based Assessment of Patients' Understanding of Their Own Imaging Examinations

J Am Coll Radiol. 2015 Jun;12(6):549-55. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2015.02.006. Epub 2015 Apr 10.


Purpose: To perform a survey-based assessment of patients' knowledge of radiologic imaging examinations, including patients' perspectives regarding communication of such information.

Methods: Adult patients were given a voluntary survey before undergoing an outpatient imaging examination at our institution. Survey questions addressed knowledge of various aspects of the examination, as well as experiences, satisfaction, and preferences regarding communication of such knowledge.

Results: A total of 176 surveys were completed by patients awaiting CT (n = 45), MRI (n = 41), ultrasound (n = 46), and nuclear medicine (n = 44) examinations. A total of 97.1% and 97.8% of patients correctly identified the examination modality and the body part being imaged, respectively. A total of 45.8% correctly identified whether the examination entailed radiation; 51.1% and 71.4% of patients receiving intravenous or oral contrast, respectively, correctly indicated its administration. A total of 78.6% indicated that the ordering physician explained the examination in advance; among these, 72.1% indicated satisfaction with the explanation. A total of 21.8% and 20.5% indicated consulting the Internet, or friends and family, respectively, to learn about the examination. An overall understanding of the examination was reported by 70.8%. A total of 18.8% had unanswered questions about the examination, most commonly regarding examination logistics, contrast-agent usage, and when results would be available. A total of 52.9% were interested in discussing the examination with a radiologist in advance. Level of understanding was greatest for CT and least for nuclear medicine examinations, and lower when patients had not previously undergone the given examination.

Conclusions: Patients' knowledge of their imaging examinations is frequently incomplete. The findings may motivate initiatives to improve patients' understanding of their imaging examinations, enhancing patient empowerment and contributing to patient-centered care.

Keywords: Patient communication; patient-centered care; radiologists; radiology practice; survey.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Comprehension*
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires