Effect of a Report Template-Enabled Quality Improvement Initiative on Use of Preferred Phrases for Communicating Normal Findings in Structured Abdominal CT and MRI Reports

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2020 Apr;214(4):835-842. doi: 10.2214/AJR.19.21735. Epub 2020 Feb 5.


OBJECTIVE. The objective of this study was to assess impact of a report template quality improvement (QI) initiative on use of preferred phrases for communicating normal findings in structured abdominal CT and MRI reports. SUBJECTS AND METHODS. This prospective QI initiative, designed to decrease use of equivocal phrases and increase use of preferred and acceptable phrases (defined by multidisciplinary experts including patient advocates) in radiology reports, was performed in an academic medical center with over 800,000 annual radiologic examinations and was exempt from institutional review board approval. The intervention populated the preferred term "normal" (default) and acceptable specified pertinent negative phrases (pick-list option) when describing abdominal organ subheadings (liver, pancreas, spleen, adrenal glands, kidneys) within the "Findings" heading of abdominal CT and MRI report templates. We tabulated frequencies of the term "normal", specified pertinent negatives, and equivocal phrases in 21,629 reports before (June 1, 2017, to February 28, 2018) and 23,051 reports after (April 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018) the intervention using natural language processing and recorded trainee participation in report generation. We assessed intervention impact using statistical process control (SPC) charts and the Fisher exact test. RESULTS. Equivocal phrases were used less frequently in abdominal CT and MRI reports for both attending radiologists and trainees after the intervention (p < 0.05, SPC). Use of the term "normal" increased for reports generated by attending radiologists alone but decreased for reports created with trainee participation (p < 0.05, SPC). Frequency of pertinent negatives increased for reports with trainee participation (p < 0.05, SPC). CONCLUSION. A QI intervention decreased use of equivocal terms and increased use of preferred and acceptable phrases when communicating normal findings in abdominal CT and MRI reports.

Keywords: language; normal; radiology reporting; report quality; templates; unremarkable; vocabulary.

MeSH terms

  • Forms and Records Control / standards*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality Improvement*
  • Radiology Information Systems
  • Terminology as Topic*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*