November 1, 2011

We have been talking about teleradiology. The practice has grown in popularity, but it poses some risks. There is no question that, in theory, patients benefit from having X-rays and CAT scans interpreted as quickly as possible, and teleradiology makes that possible, even in hospitals in the remote corners of Oregon.

Critics have pointed out that the lack of direct communication between the radiologist and the treating physician can lead to missed diagnoses, if not just wrong diagnoses. These seemingly preventable mistakes can be fatal.

Critics also wonder who, exactly, is reading the imaging studies. The images are transmitted electronically to a company miles away. As we said, the company may be based in Seattle, but the person reading the scan is actually in Hong Kong. That level of uncertainty is unsettling for critics.

Even more unsettling is the thought that the person in Hong Kong may not be qualified for the job. Certainly ethical companies will comply with licensing and certification laws for every state they operate in, but unethical companies? The scenario could very well be along the lines of the insurance company commercials with the customer service rep named Peggy, played by a man.

Teleradiology is really the perfect set-up for ghosting, too. Clearly illegal, ghosting is a little like robo-signing in the mortgage industry. The doctor rubber stamps the report written by a technician. The doctor has no idea of the contents of the report or what the scan looked like.

About a year ago, a ghosting scam came to light. We’ll get into that in our next post.

Source: MSNBC, “Is a doctor reading your X-rays? Maybe not,” Katherine Eban, Oct. 26, 2011


Categories: Blog