Improving the diagnostic quality and adequacy of shoulder radiographs in a District General Hospital

BMJ Qual Improv Rep. 2016 Aug 11;5(1):u209855.w3501. doi: 10.1136/bmjquality.u209855.w3501. eCollection 2016.


A high rate of suboptimal shoulder radiographs was identified during a service evaluation exercise in our orthopaedic outpatient clinics. Inadequate radiographs require a return to the radiology department for further imaging, a resultant increased workload, delays in the clinic, increased radiation for patients, and inconvenience and decreased patient satisfaction. Furthermore, if a sub-optimal radiograph is accepted there is concern that diagnoses may be missed. The aim of this project was to decrease the rate of suboptimal radiographs by delivering a teaching package directed towards quality improvement. Evaluation criteria were set for standard orthopaedic shoulder radiographs (Anterior-posterior, axillary, and Velpeau views). Baseline data collection was performed over three, two-week periods and included all patients attending the shoulder clinic. The percentage of x-rays which were deemed adequate was only 19.4% for anterior-posterior views and 57.9% for axillary views. A comprehensive educational package was delivered to radiographers. This included a formal PowerPoint based teaching session, hands on training with practice using a skeleton, posters with step-by step instructions on how to obtain an adequate image, and PDF aide memoires suitable for viewing on a smartphone. Two subsequent two-week periods of data collection were performed to evaluate the benefit of this intervention. Delivery of focussed training and provision of easily accessible aide memoires to facilitate improved quality of radiographs resulted in a significant (p<0.05) reduction in the rate of inadequate images. There was also a significant decreases in the rate of return to the radiology department for repeat imaging.