Swift patient access to medical results has increased rapidly due to changes in technology and legislation. The release of radiology test results within 24 hours of completion is common in many health systems. Although surveys have shown that patients favor rapid availability of results, because they are able to access them before discussing them with an ordering provider, little research has been done on this topic. Bleeker and colleagues evaluated whether there were distinct concerns, through an online survey focused on provider opinions on rapid result release, beginning in February 2020. These oncology providers performed service throughout Sanford Health, a multisite, primarily rural, integrated practice located in the upper Midwest. A similar survey was disseminated to oncology patients also beginning in February 2020, until August 2020, when 100 patients had completed the survey; categorical and narrative results were contained in both surveys.
A generally more negative opinion of rapid radiology results release through online portals was held by oncology providers when compared with patients’ opinions. The majority (65%) of patients believed radiology results should be released within 24 hours; however, only 12% of providers held this opinion. Providers generally did not feel comfortable with patients’ ability to interpret radiology results generally, with 66% sharing this opinion. Only 13% of providers thought that “normal” results should be released immediately through an online portal; when results were “abnormal,” only 3% felt the information should be quickly released through an online portal. Test results impacted patient opinions of whether it was appropriate to release results. If the results were “normal,” half of patients favored initial communication through the online portal, bypassing discussion with a provider; however, this decreased to 28% for “abnormal” results. Through an online portal before discussion with a provider, approximately 43% of patients had learned of an “abnormal” result; the majority (66%) of these patients felt that this allowed them to process the information before their consultation, which they felt was a positive. However, one-third felt that it contributed to unnecessary concern. The vast majority (94%) of healthcare providers stated patients contacted them about test results before scheduled appointments, with the majority (60%) of providers revealing that this occurs at least 1 time per week. When surveyed about what improvements could be incorporated into the Sanford system, providers generally (80%) recommended keeping radiology results from patients until direct consultation with the healthcare staff could take place; however, only 8% of patients agreed with this same intervention.
The investigators concluded that rapid release of results is normally satisfying for patients, although oncology patients do differentiate between wanting “abnormal” and “normal” results released. For healthcare providers, this is dissatisfying both due to issues regarding patients’ ability to understand radiology findings and due to excess work generated by rapid release of radiology results. Continuing efforts must focus on methods of granting patients access to resources that make medical findings and records more interpretable if reviewed prior to visits with healthcare providers.
Bleeker J, Wernisch JJ, Tronier S, et al. Oncology patient and provider preferences regarding rapid radiology result release to online portals. Presented at: American Society of Clinical Oncology 2021 Annual Meeting, June 4-8. Abstract 1544.