Patients of all races offer positive review of CT exams

By Abraham Kim, staff writer

March 7, 2019 -- How did a diverse patient population rate their experiences of undergoing a CT exam? Very favorably, for the most part, according to a study by U.S. and Australian researchers, who reported their findings in an article published online March 1 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

The exponential increase in CT utilization in recent years -- especially in the emergency department -- has put pressure on radiologists and clinicians, who must meet growing demand without cutting corners on quality of patient care.

Understanding patient perceptions of CT could help clinicians identify possible areas of improvement -- optimizing CT use while also enhancing the patient experience, noted senior author Dr. Kavita Garg from the University of Colorado School of Medicine and colleagues. Thus far, the vast majority of studies investigating the topic have homed in on patient views of CT screening exams and their concerns over potential harm from radiation exposure.

Shifting the focus of this earlier work, Garg and colleagues administered a survey to determine the overall experience of patients who underwent outpatient CT exams at an academic hospital between May 2016 and March 2017. The racial/ethnic composition of the 302 individuals who agreed to participate in the survey was 33% non-Hispanic white, 29% Hispanic or Latino, 24% African-American or black, 8% mixed or other, 5% Asian or Pacific Islander, and 2% American Indian or Alaska Native.

Overall, most of the patients responded favorably to their CT exam experience: Depending on the particular question, 94% to 98% had positive expectations of those conducting the CT exam, 71% to 97% demonstrated sufficient understanding of the reason for their scan, 92% trusted their medical providers, 67% to 93% cited benefits of CT, and only 9% to 17% reported facing barriers.

Patient perspective on undergoing a CT exam
Survey question Negative response (strongly disagree, disagree) Positive response (strongly agree, agree)
Understand the reason for your CT exam 1.3% 97.4%
Expect the physician to explain the scan results 1.3% 97.7%
Trust the physician to properly explain why the exam is necessary 1.3% 91.7%
Believe the exam will help with treatment 0.3% 93%
Worry the scan will result in unnecessary radiation exposure 51.8% 14.4%

What's more, the study revealed no statistically significant differences in patients' perceptions and experiences across different demographics for all but one of the questions: Approximately 88% of Asian and 54% of African-American or black patients strongly agreed that they wanted to know more about their CT scan, compared with 28.3% of non-Hispanic white patients (p < 0.05).

Though the responses were generally positive, several patients reported concerns about various aspects of undergoing a CT exam. Roughly 17% of the patients claimed to be afraid of finding out something was wrong, and 14% worried about unnecessary radiation exposure.

"Perceived barriers were reported at relatively low rates, but these responses identified areas where we can improve patient experiences," the authors wrote. "For example, being afraid to have the CT scan because they may find out something was wrong ... highlights an opportunity to better explain to patients the benefits of a timely and accurate diagnosis that may improve their health outcomes."

In addition, such information "can guide providers in improving patient experience and empower patients as active participants in the medical decision-making process," they concluded.

Copyright © 2019

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