PURPOSE: Currently, there is a growing need for patient-centered radiology in which radiologists communicate with patients directly. The aim of this study is to investigate the preferences of referring physicians (RPs) regarding direct communication between radiologists and patients.
METHODS: This study was conducted in a single academic hospital using a survey form. The survey items investigated the preferences of RPs regarding: 1. who should be the communicator of test results when a patient with abnormal findings requests information (the options were the radiologist; another health professional with communication skills training (CST); and the RP with CST); and 2. how the communication activity should be conducted if the radiologist is obliged (or chooses) to communicate with the patient directly (the options were that the disclosure should be limited to the findings in the radiology report; the radiologist should emphasize that the RP is the primary physician; and the communication activity should be conducted in accordance with guidelines established by consensus). The respondents were 101 RPs from various fields of specialty; they were asked to rate the items using a 5-point Likert scale. The effects of age, sex, field of specialty (surgical vs. nonsurgical), and total years of experience as a medical specialist on the ratings were statistically compared.
RESULTS: Most RPs preferred that the radiologist transmit the information to the RP without communicating directly with the patient (89.1%). Although 69.3% of the RPs declared that health professionals with CST have priority in communication, 86.1% declared that the RP should be the person who received CST. If the radiologist communicates with patients directly, the RPs favored that 1. the disclosure should be limited to the findings in the radiology report (95%); 2. the communication activity should include an emphasis on the RP as the patient’s primary agent (84.1%); and 3. communication should be conducted in accordance with guidelines established by consensus (73.2%). The percentage of strong opinions did not change significantly with regard to age, sex, field of specialty, or total years of experience, except that surgeons expressed strong disagreement with delegating the communication activity to another health professional who received CST (χ² = 9.9; P = 0.042).
CONCLUSION: These findings may serve as a basis to implement institutional and national policies for patient-centered radiology.