Radiology’s continuing PR problem

A couple of months back, JACR published an article with the self-evident conclusion that patients would prefer to hear the results of their radiology studies from their doctor (the ordering provider) instead of a radiologist. Duh! Who wants to hear they have cancer from a stranger who they may never see you again nor have any role in their future care?

Buried in that revelation is far more interesting and depressing data. While many patients don’t really understand the difference between ophthalmologists & optometrists and psychiatrists & psychologists, a substantial portion of patients essentially have no idea what a radiologist even is. The surveyed patients believed radiologists are techs who actually operate the machines and not physicians, and they comically underestimated the length of training:

While 88% of patients were confident they knew what a radiologist is and what one does, 79% thought they were technologists (misplaced confidence!). Only 56% knew radiologists are physicians, and even fewer, 31%, believed that radiologists perform image-guided procedures. On average, they believed that the speciality requires an average training of 6.8 years after high school. Respondents at community hospitals estimated even less time, 5.3 years, which would make radiologists second year medical students.

So even though I think it’s clear that patients would (and probably should) want to hear their results from the ordering physician, it’s even less surprising that they’d want the news that way if the alternative is to hear the results from a nonphysician who just finished their first year or medical school.



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