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Radiology errors matter to patients

You fell outside when you were running, and the angle you caught yourself caused your wrist to make a snapping noise. You're fairly certain you broke your wrist, but you need to get an X-ray to be sure.

Radiologists are usually the first people who see X-rays and other imaging tests. They have the power to review the tests and indicate their findings. The problem with that is that interpretation errors or a failure to communicate can leave a patient with serious injuries.

In around 60 percent of studied cases in which radiology was the primary service provider, it was found that patients complained of diagnostic failures. In 48 percent of cases, the claims stated there was a misinterpretation that led to a delay in care. In 23 percent of cases, it was a communication problem, not an error in interpretation, that led to a patient's injuries.

How can radiologists make sure to keep patients safe?

The key is staying focused and detail-oriented. Radiologists need to make sure medical providers receive information in a timely manner and with notes or findings that are easy-to-read or decipher. Having clear communication processes help radiologists and medical providers work together more effectively.

Another thing radiologists can do is seek second opinions and gain more training. It's never easy to read tests, and there are many times when they have artifacts or other imaging issues that could create false positive results. However, better training can help medical professionals reduce the risk of delayed or erroneous diagnoses from these tests, especially when combined with getting second opinions from other radiologists in unclear cases.

Source: Radiology Business, "What radiologists can learn from reviewing malpractice claims data," Michael Walter, accessed Oct. 19, 2017

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