TELERADIOLOGY BRINGS BENEFITS AND RISKS TO HOSPITALS, PATIENTS P5
November 1, 2011
The subject of our last few posts has been teleradiology. The practice offers significant cost savings for hospitals and allows rural hospitals quicker access to costly professionals. Having a radiologist available, electronically, 24/7 can dramatically improve patient care, too. But, what happens if the Portland doctor signing off on the X-ray report today quit his job at the teleradiology company a while back?
To our knowledge, this has not happened in Oregon. It did, however, happen in another state. Authorities discovered that a hospital technician had been involved somehow in “ghosting” 1,300 mammogram readings. The hospital insists the tech acted alone. She maintains she is innocent. And the whole thing got more complicated when investigators discovered that the physician whose signature appeared on the reports hadn’t worked for the teleradiology company for some time.
Investigators also discovered that the tech had entered the results of about 100 mammograms in 10 minutes. Researchers say that’s way off. Typically, a radiologist can fully review only four mammograms in that time.
Evidence continued to turn up about the outsource teleradiology company for some time. A radiologist who had worked there said he had seen a part-time radiologist make some serious, even life-threatening errors. The chief executive knew but did nothing. The part-time radiologist likely cost much less per hour than the full-time ones did.
In another case, a teleradiologist approved more than 70,000 scans between May 2007 and January 2008, even though no licensed radiologist ever saw them. That case involved patients in five states.
Yet another case saw a company improving its bottom line by assigning assistants to read the reports, rather than licensed radiologists. The head of that operation faces 32 counts of fraud and obstruction, among other crimes.
We will finish this up in our next post.
Source: MSNBC, “Is a doctor reading your X-rays? Maybe not,” Katherine Eban, Oct. 26, 2011