November 1, 2011

We are finishing up our discussion of teleradiology. We have talked about the advantages and some disadvantages to both the bottom line and patient care. Health care experts say the practice is here to stay. Critics say that more regulation is necessary to make sure patients aren’t having their X-rays or CAT scans read by a janitor. Patients may just need disclosures that the radiologist isn’t necessarily in Oregon.

Because the outsourced radiologist may be on a completely different continent, the American College of Radiology wants hospitals and imaging centers to vet their vendors carefully. Companies that employ professionals whose standards do not meet or exceed those of their U.S. counterparts should be shied away from — or encouraged to bring themselves into compliance.

We have mentioned the immense void left when professionals on a care team don’t personally interact. The consultation between physicians can be the difference between a correct diagnosis and a health emergency down the road.

Years ago, managed care promised coordination among care teams — maybe not the kind of brainstorming seen on “House,” but certainly checking with other caregivers on patient history and treatment concerns. Drug interactions were at the top of the list for that kind of collaboration. Patients don’t always remember what medications they’ve taken.

Health care experts have the same advice for patients now that they did then: Be involved in your own care. Ask questions. Ask for a second opinion.

A diagnosis may still be missed. Estimates are that 75 percent of stress fractures are missed by an X-ray. Patients who still have pain go back, this time for a MRI. So the best piece of advice health professionals offer is to pay attention to your body and understand what is normal and what is not. And keep asking questions.

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


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