RSNA 2017: Imaging Informatics Preview

Radiology reports should be shorter and simpler

By Erik L. Ridley, staff writer

October 30, 2017 --

Tuesday, November 28 | 11:50 a.m.-12:00 p.m. | SSG07-09 | Room N230B
In this scientific session, researchers will highlight the need to make radiology reports easier to understand by patients.

While radiology reports have traditionally been written primarily for healthcare providers, studies have shown that patients and their families are increasingly reading the results of their imaging procedures. Radiology reports are readily available on online patient portals, but patients have indicated that their reports are not always intelligible to them, according to presenter Dr. Teresa Martin-Carreras from the University of Pennsylvania.

"Additionally, approximately 80 million adults in the U.S. have limited health literacy, placing them at greater risk for diminished access to care and poorer health outcomes," she told "For these reasons, we sought to assess the readability of a large corpus of radiology reports from our institution."

The researchers retrospectively reviewed a random sample of more than 100,000 radiology reports and found a mean reading level of the 12.9th grade (± 2.4 grades).

"As patient-centered care gains importance, we hope that radiologists can explore using shorter, simpler, and more structured language to help patients better understand their radiology report," she said. "Our work also adds to the body of literature supporting intermediary mechanisms [that] bridge the gap in patient understanding, and suggests opportunities for expansion of lay-language glossaries of radiology terms to aid patients and their families [to] understand their imaging results."