- Patients and family caregivers are not receiving adequate patient education and preparation prior to an imaging exam, according to research from the Radiology Society of North American (RSNA).
The research, published in the journal Radiology, examined patient preferences for patient education and information gathering related to an imaging scan. The researchers, who hailed from Yale School of Medicine, surveyed nearly 1,500 adult and pediatric patients from area hospitals.
Seventy-eight percent of patients said they receive some sort of information prior to an imaging exam. Although this is a high proportion, the researchers contended that one in five patients not receiving adequate patient educate is too many.
"This means one in five people are showing up for the exam without any information about the test they are getting," said Jay K. Pahade, MD, an associate professor of radiology at the Yale School of Medicine. "This is an important finding in today's health care system, where we want more patient engagement and involvement."
Additionally, the researchers found that there was a disparity between the patient education that patients receive and what patients and their caregivers actually want.
Patients preferred the ordering provider to offer the patient education over any other provider connected to the care encounter, the researchers found. Patients also prioritize pre-examination information over tools that aid in interpreting results. Patients placed lowest importance on information about alternative tests.
Parent caregivers in pediatric settings put an even higher emphasis on pre-examination education than other respondents, the researchers reported.
"These results show that what we as radiologists think patients value is not necessarily what they actually value," Dr. Pahade said. "Our study found that patients value basic information related to the test more than information related to the radiation dose, so we should probably shift our focus to providing that."
Healthcare professionals need to address these gaps in information-seeking and work to better meet patient preferences, Pahade explained. Patients who do not have sufficient information going into any type of exam tend to experience higher rates of anxiety, thus negatively impacting the patient experience.
"In the radiology realm, we need to take more ownership over the entire imaging process," Pahade noted. "One big gap has been in the pre-imaging part of that process, and the data show we have work to do in closing that gap."
In lieu of or to supplement clinician-provided patient education, about half of respondents are seeking out their own resources. Radiologists and other clinicians must make note of this phenomenon and direct patients toward reputable external resources.
When providers help patients obtain credible educational materials, they facilitate patient activation and allow patients to take ownership if their own care.
"We need to increase visibility of sites that provide some of this information," Pahade noted. "Half of our studied population stated they tried to find information on their own, but there was very little use of radiology-created sites like RadiologyInfo.org that can serve as a great resource."
These results are similar to those found in a separate survey from Philips. Although 80 percent of patients report patient satisfaction with their radiologists and referring clinicians, there are some areas of improvement necessary for patient education, the Philips survey found.
Twenty-three percent of surveyed patients said they felt unprepared going into their exam, 25 percent were fearful during the scan, and 27 percent said they received average or poor instructions about the exam follow-up process. Better patient education can help support patients during these points of care.
Better patient education is a win-win in care encounters. When patients have more information about their conditions and treatments, they become more activated and can play a meaningful role in their own health.
Additionally, well-informed patients are more prepared before procedures, ultimately putting those patients at ease and making them more comfortable during the encounter. This in turn will enhance the overall patient experience.