How accurate are medical radiology results?

Multiple studies highlight the dangers to patients of errors involving radiological testing and results, including missed or delayed diagnoses.

It is not uncommon for residents in New York to have various medical testing conducted. In some cases, this testing is part of routine screenings such with as an annual mammogram or periodic bloodwork. In other cases, a particular test may be ordered to further investigate symptoms that a person is experiencing to facilitate an accurate and timely diagnosis and corresponding treatment.

Unfortunately, there can be many problems associated with these tests that may lead to serious problems for patients. An insurance company, Coverys, recently released results from its 2018 Red Signal Report. As reported by Health Imaging, these results show that only general practitioners were involved in more medical malpractice claims that radiologists.

Diagnostic medical malpractice claims and radiology mistakes

The Coverys study reviewed 10,000 claims spanning a five-year period beginning in 2013. The misinterpretation of test results was a primary factor in 80 percent of the diagnostic claims. Of the claims involving radiologists, patients either died or experienced permanent injuries in eight out of 10 cases.

Radiology Business indicates that the study was conducted to identify opportunities to improve patient safety by reducing the risk of errors. As such, recommendations for improvements were included in the report.

One of the recommendations to reduce errors was for medical professionals to use more common language to avoid any misinterpretations. Also suggested was the development and use of standard reporting templates, treatment protocols and decision support tools. Furthermore, it was identified that radiologists were too frequently not included as key members of a diagnosis team but that they should be.

2016 report highlights a historical problem

Sadly, the 2018 report does not reveal a new problem but rather an ongoing one. In 2016, Becker's Hospital Review provided an overview of a study that was new then that exposed how errors in the communication of test results was linked to a reduced quality of care for patients.

The American Journal of Roentgenology study found that out of 380 communication errors, result communications were involved in 181 claims, or 47 percent of all claims in the study. The second most common factor noted in the study was test performance which accounted for 30 percent of the claims.

The ordering and scheduling of tests and the interpretation of their results were found to be involved in another 22.3 percent of claims.

Among all cases reviewed, patient care was impacted in nearly 38 percent of claims. The impact was said to be major in 89 cases and minor in 21 cases.

Advocating for patient rights

The prompt and accurate diagnosis of a condition can play a direct role in the outcome to a patient. When a person in New York is concerned that their test results are not appropriately followed up on or may be inaccurate, talking with an attorney is recommended.