Expediting critical/nonroutine results by implementing an effective communication process will reduce the likelihood of missed results that can lead to patient harm and, ultimately, to a liability claim.
Have processes in place that expedite the delivery of diagnostic imaging reports and ensure that the respective department or physician (such as surgery, hospitalist, or the emergency department physician) receives findings promptly. Include discrepant findings from any preceding interpretations.
Assist your peers as part of the process by ensuring there is a reciprocal duty of information exchange. The referring physician or other relevant healthcare provider shares responsibility for obtaining the results of imaging studies that he or she has ordered. The request for imaging should include relevant clinical information, a working diagnosis, and/or pertinent clinical signs and symptoms. The request should also include a specific question to be answered. Communicate to your peers what you need in order to facilitate an accurate diagnosis.
Consider the following strategies for nonroutine communications:
Implement best practices, and monitor them as an ongoing quality improvement process. Consider these recommendations:
For more information, see the Initiatives section of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors and the ACR Practice Parameters for Communication of Diagnostic Imaging Findings.
By Susan Shepard, MSN, RN, Senior Director, Patient Safety and Risk Management Education, and Cynthia Morrison, RN, CPHRM, Senior Patient Safety Risk Manager.
The guidelines suggested here are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. The ultimate decision regarding the appropriateness of any treatment must be made by each healthcare provider in light of all circumstances prevailing in the individual situation and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the care is rendered.