Adoption of a Closed-Loop Communication Tool to Establish and Execute a Collaborative Follow-Up Plan for Incidental Pulmonary Nodules

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2019 Feb 19;1-5. doi: 10.2214/AJR.18.20692. Online ahead of print.


Objective: The purpose of this study is to assess radiologists' adoption of a closed-loop communication and tracking system, Result Alert and Development of Automated Resolution (RADAR), for incidental pulmonary nodules and to measure its effect on the completeness of radiologists' follow-up recommendations.

Materials and methods: This retrospective study was performed at a tertiary academic center that performs more than 600,000 radiology examinations annually. Before RADAR, the institution's standard of care was for radiologists to generate alerts for newly discovered incidental pulmonary nodules using a previously described PACS-embedded software tool. RADAR is a new closed-loop communication tool embedded in the PACS and enterprise provider workflow that enables establishing a collaborative follow-up plan between a radiologist and referring provider and helps automate collaborative follow-up plan tracking and execution. We assessed RADAR adoption for incidental pulmonary nodules, the primary outcome, in our thoracic radiology division (study period March 9, 2018, through August 2, 2018). The secondary outcome was the completeness of follow-up recommendation for incidental pulmonary nodules, defined as explicit imaging modality and time frame for follow-up.

Results: After implementation, 106 of 183 (58%) incidental pulmonary nodules alerts were generated using RADAR. RADAR adoption increased by 75% during the study period (40% in the first 3 weeks vs 70% in the last 3 weeks; p < 0.001 test for trend). All RADAR alerts had explicit documentation of imaging modality and follow-up time frame, compared with 71% for non-RADAR alerts for incidental pulmonary nodules (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: A closed-loop communication system that enables establishing and executing a collaborative follow-up plan for incidental pulmonary nodules can be adopted and improves the quality of radiologists' follow-up recommendations.

Keywords: closed-loop communication; follow-up tracking; incidental pulmonary nodule.