Rationale and objectives: The authors analyzed opinions regarding how a radiologist should answer a patient's or patient's family's questions about radiologic results.
Methods: Questionnaires were obtained in a university hospital from 135 physicians of various specialties, including radiologists, and 501 nonphysicians, such as medical students, nurses, patients, families of patients, and hospital personnel. The questionnaire included three questions, each with five choices. The first question concerned a normal result, the second a minor abnormality, and the third a major abnormality. The five choices in each question consisted of two suggestive answers to patients' inquiries and three excuses for the refusal of immediate answers. Respondents were asked to choose the single most desirable and the single least desirable answer.
Results: Approximately 50% of all physicians believed that a radiologist should refer the patient to his or her physician rather than to give a suggestive answer to a patient with an abnormality. Considerably fewer physicians had a similar opinion in cases involving a patient with normal results. Patients and the families of patients believed that a radiologist should give at least a suggestive answer in any circumstances where the patient is agitated to know the result. Radiologists were reluctant to convey any information regardless of the test result.
Conclusions: Physicians had significantly different opinions from patients and the families of patients, and radiologists preferred to keep their traditional role of referral physician.