November 14, 2019 --
In the fall of 2018, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed the Patient Test Result Information Act, a law that requires all radiology practices to inform patients within 20 days after a final report is released of any "significant abnormality" that might require follow up within 90 days, according to Dr. Adam Flanders of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
"To my knowledge, outside of mammography, this is the first state law that imposes a patient communication requirement specific to diagnostic radiology," Flanders told AuntMinnie.com. "Other states may (and probably should) follow our lead and enact similar legislation."
The law stipulated a very short timeline -- 60 days -- to comply with the law. As there were no commercial IT tools for such a niche application, the institution, along with every other radiology practice in the state, had to put together a solution in very short order, he said.
"The method that we have devised is a 'belt and suspenders' approach using [natural language processing] to detect follow-ups in the text to generate a patient letter AND a manually triggered method (via a speech macro) to send a letter when the radiologist deems it appropriate," Flanders said. "This provides additional control."
The law is somewhat limited, as it only applies to outpatient studies and excludes radiography, routine obstetric ultrasound, and inpatient services. However, many groups have loosened the reporting criteria to make it more encompassing of all studies in all settings, he noted.
"After all, unexpected findings occur in all settings and can require follow-up after 90 days as well," he said.
He noted that for many radiology practices, the law could result in the beginning of an effective radiology patient outreach program.