Interpretations of Examinations Outside of Radiologists' Fellowship Training: Assessment of Discrepancy Rates Among 5.9 Million Examinations From a National Teleradiology Databank

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2022 Apr;218(4):738-745. doi: 10.2214/AJR.21.26656. Epub 2021 Nov 3.


BACKGROUND. In community settings, radiologists commonly function as multispecialty radiologists, interpreting examinations outside of their area of fellowship training. OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this article was to compare discrepancy rates for preliminary interpretations of acute community-setting examinations that are concordant versus discordant with interpreting radiologists' area of fellowship training. METHODS. This retrospective study used the databank of a U.S. teleradiology company that provides preliminary interpretations for client community hospitals. The analysis included 5,883,980 acute examinations performed from 2012 to 2016 that were preliminarily interpreted by 269 teleradiologists with a fellowship of neuroradiology, abdominal radiology, or musculoskeletal radiology. When providing final interpretations, client on-site radiologists voluntarily submitted quality assurance (QA) requests if preliminary and final interpretations were discrepant; the teleradiology company's QA committee categorized discrepancies as major (n = 8444) or minor (n = 17,208). Associations among examination type (common vs advanced), relationship between examination subspecialty and the teleradiologist's fellowship (concordant vs discordant), and major and minor discrepancies were assessed using three-way conditional analyses with generalized estimating equations. RESULTS. For examinations with a concordant subspecialty, the major discrepancy rate was lower for common than for advanced examinations (0.13% vs 0.26%; relative risk [RR], 0.50, 95% CI, 0.42-0.60; p < .001). For examinations with a discordant subspecialty, the major discrepancy rate was lower for common than advanced examinations (0.14% vs 0.18%; RR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.72-0.90; p < .001). For common examinations, the major discrepancy rate was not different between examinations with concordant versus discordant subspecialty (0.13% vs 0.14%; RR, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.81-1.01; p = .07). For advanced examinations, the major discrepancy rate was higher for examinations with concordant versus discordant subspecialty (0.26% vs 0.18%; RR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.18-1.79; p < .001). The minor discrepancy rate was higher among advanced examinations for those with concordant versus discordant subspecialty (0.34% vs 0.29%; RR, 1.17; 95% CI, 1.00-1.36; p = .04), but not different for other comparisons (p > .05). CONCLUSION. Major and minor discrepancy rates were not higher for acute community-setting examinations outside of interpreting radiologists' fellowship training. Discrepancy rates increased for advanced examinations. CLINICAL IMPACT. The findings support multispecialty radiologist practice in acute community settings. Efforts to match examination and interpreting radiologist sub-specialty may not reduce diagnostic discrepancies.

Keywords: community; fellowship; quality; subspecialty; teleradiology.

MeSH terms

  • Fellowships and Scholarships
  • Humans
  • Radiologists
  • Radiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Teleradiology*