Many second opinion radiology reports go unread

2019 05 09 23 47 6163 Doctor Hassled 400

Clinicians don't read 11.4% of second-opinion radiology reports, which is a waste of healthcare resources, according to an August 12 study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

Three radiologists from University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands conducted a retrospective study of 4,696 consecutive second-opinion reports of external imaging exams authorized by subspecialty radiologists at a tertiary care institution between January 1 and December 31, 2018.

The researchers found 537 (11.4%) were not read by a clinician, with the highest modality being ultrasound (20/32, 62.5%), and the highest subspecialty being interventional radiology (12/23, 52.2%).

The following variables remained significantly and independently associated with the second-opinion report not being read:

  • Inpatient status
  • Sonography as the imaging modality
  • Surgery or neurology as the specialty of the requesting clinician
  • Interventional radiology as the subspecialty of the radiologist who authorized the second-opinion report

The 537 unread second-opinion reports could cost as much as 53,700 euros ($63,600), given that the National Healthcare Authority of the Netherlands allows up to 100 euros ($118) to be charged for each second-opinion reading.

"Although these numbers appear modest, they pertain to a single institution during a one-year time period," wrote first author Dr. Sabine Heinz.

Cumulative nationwide figures would raise these totals "possibly substantially" and the number of unread second-opinion reports will likely increase "given the projected rise in future second-opinion requests," she added.

Additionally, the 11.4% unread rate is likely an underestimation because opening the report in the electronic patient file system does not necessarily mean the clinician actually read the report, the researchers concluded.

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