Making Medical Imaging Transparent

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , April 3, 2012

This article appears in the March 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Within the next five years, experts believe that patients will have—or will come to expect—near immediate Internet access to medical imaging as part of their personal medical records.

That push toward more access to imaging has caused some trepidation within healthcare circles as primary care physicians, radiologists, administrative staff, and even healthcare economists try to determine how it will alter the physician-patient relationship, what new demands and constraints it will place on physicians, and how it will impact the use and cost of expensive medical imaging. 

David S. Mendelson, MD, FACR, chief of clinical informatics at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, says improving patient access to imaging is something that all physicians—including radiologists—should embrace.

"The intent is to push for more appropriate imaging. The goal is, through easier accessibility you reduce redundant imaging," says Mendelson, who serves on the Radiology Informatics Committee of the Radiological Society of North America.

"You need the right information available when you're evaluating a patient. One reason there is 'inappropriate' imaging is lack of access to prior exams," he says. "You can spin a variety of clinical stories where someone wants the images or the results, or frequently both, and they aren't available and the only answer is to repeat the exam. That is costly, and in the case where there is ionizing radiation—CT is a common example—there is an extra radiation dose. And there is clearly a parallel drive right now to reduce radiation exposure to patients and use only as necessary."

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