Computerized follow-up of discrepancies in image interpretation between emergency and radiology departments

J Digit Imaging. 1998 Aug;11(3 Suppl 1):18-20. doi: 10.1007/BF03168250.

Abstract

Radiographs are ordered and interpreted for immediate clinical decisions 24 hours a day by emergency physicians (EP's). The Joint Commission for Accreditation of Health Care Organizations requires that all these images be reviewed by radiologists and that there be some mechanism for quality improvement (QI) for discrepant readings. There must be a log of discrepancies and documentation of follow up activities, but this alone does not guarantee effective Q.I. Radiologists reviewing images from the previous day and night often must guess at the preliminary interpretation of the EP and whether follow up action is necessary. EP's may remain ignorant of the final reading and falsely assume the initial diagnosis and treatment were correct. Some hospitals use a paper system in which the EP writes a preliminary interpretation on the requisition slip, which will be available when the radiologist dictates the final reading. Some hospitals use a classification of discrepancies based on clinical import and urgency, and communicated to the EP on duty at the time of the official reading, but may not communicate discrepancies to the EP's who initial read the images. Our computerized radiology department and picture archiving and communications system have increased technologist and radiologist productivity, and decreased retakes and lost films. There are fewer face-to-face consultants of radiologists and clinicians, but more communication by telephone and electronic annotation of PACS images. We have integrated the QI process for emergency department (ED) images into the PACS, and gained advantages over the traditional discrepancy log. Requisitions including clinical indications are entered into the Hospital Information System and then appear on the PACS along with images on readings. The initial impression, time of review, and the initials of the EP are available to the radiologist dictating the official report. The radiologist decides if there is a discrepancy, and whether it is category I (potentially serious, needs immediate follow-up), category II (moderate risk, follow-up in one day), or category III (low risk, follow-up in several days). During the working day, the radiologist calls immediately for category I discrepancies. Those noted from the evening, night, or weekend before are called to the EP the next morning. All discrepancies with the preliminary interpretation are communicated to the EP and are kept in a computerized log for review by a radiologist at a weekly ED teaching conference. This system has reduced the need for the radiologist to ask or guess what the impression was in the ED the night before. It has reduced the variability in recording of impressions by EP's, in communication back from radiologists, in the clinical] follow-up made, and in the documentation of the whole QI process. This system ensures that EP's receive notification of their discrepant readings, and provides continuing education to all the EP's on interpreting images on their patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / standards*
  • Radiology Department, Hospital / standards*
  • Radiology Information Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Teleradiology / methods*