Assessment of joint review of radiologic studies by a primary care physician and a radiologist

J Gen Intern Med. 1996 Oct;11(10):608-12. doi: 10.1007/BF02599028.


Objectives: To assess whether the joint review of radiologic studies by the primary care physician and the radiologist affects patient care and health care costs.

Design: Prospective study.

Setting: Student health clinic at a university hospital.

Patients: University students seen during acute care visits.

Intervention: Joint weekly review of all radiologic studies ordered at the student health clinic between July 1992 and June 1993 by a staff radiologist and internist.

Measurements and main results: The outcome measures were: (1) change of radiologic diagnosis after review process and its effect on patient management; (2) expenses saved or incurred by the review process. Of 323 films ordered, 305 were reviewed, resulting in revisions of 23 (8%) of the initial readings. Sixteen revisions (5%) led to a change in patient management; the remainder were clinically insignificant. In these 16 cases, cancellation or simplification of further workup resulted in savings of $1,967. The cost for extra physician time was $5,499. Thus, the review process incurred a net cost of $3,532. Except for the reduction in diagnostic studies, no therapeutic benefit for the patients could be identified. Film readings in our radiology department were conservative, with a positive predictive value of 85% and a negative predictive value of 99.7%.

Conclusions: Routinely reviewing every radiologic study did not affect patient outcome in an outpatient clinic with low prevalence of disease. Given our radiologists' conservative film-reading practice, a review of only abnormal studies may prove more cost-effective in a healthy population. This type of assessment has implications for improving the efficiency of a changing health care system.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Primary Health Care / standards
  • Program Evaluation*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / economics
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / standards
  • Radiology*
  • Referral and Consultation* / economics
  • Referral and Consultation* / trends