The Path to Patient Empowerment: Hospitals are granting patients access to their health information, but is that enough?

💡 This post was automatically imported from Healthcare IT Today. You can find the original article here.
Author: Colin Hung

The 21st Century Cures Act codifies immediate access to health information for patients. The Act paves the way for patients to become more pro-active partners in their care. Access alone, however, is not sufficient. There is little value for patients to access health information they cannot understand. This is especially the case with radiology. A typical radiology report contains a lot of medical jargon and data that can be misinterpreted easily by those without medical training. One radiologist-led health technology company, SCANSLATED is addressing this challenge by offering AI-powered report translation software to help patients more easily understand their imaging results.

Patients Proactive Participants in Their Care

Studies have shown that patients who are more active in their care, experience better health outcomes at lower costs compared to less active patients. An “activated” patient is one that has the skills, ability, and willingness to manage their own health and health care experience.

Until recently, the healthcare system did not make it easy for patients to be active in their own care. It was difficult for patients to get copies of their medical records and when they did, the information was often out-of-date or incomplete. Only the most determined patients are able to successfully navigate the maze of healthcare policies and organizations to gather their records in one place.

Today, the widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) and patient portals has made it easier for patients to access their own health information. That access is an important first step in turning passive patients into activated ones. However, to truly activate and engage patients in their care will require helping them understand the information contained in their medical records.

Radiology reports, for example, are particularly difficult for patients to understand.

Moving from Access to Understanding

A study from the University of Colorado showed that the majority of patients preferred reading their radiology reports, including the images, as soon as they were available rather than waiting days for their referring physician to call/meet with them to review the results. Now with the 21st Century Cures Act, patients are empowered to do just that. The Act prevents healthcare organizations from blocking access to these reports (called “info blocking”) – even if it believes the results may cause patient distress.

It is not surprising that some radiologists and primary care physicians are worried about the potential influx of calls from anxious patients who are now able to see the results. While this might happen, there are steps that organizations can take to mitigate this risk. The key is for organizations to shift from simply providing access to helping patients understand the information that is made available.

Challenge of Radiology Reports

The traditional workflow for radiology reports is:

  1. A Radiologist reviews the images and writes the report
  2. The report is signed off by the radiologist and delivered to the referring physician
  3. The referring physician reviews the report and arranges a time to meet with their patient to discuss the results

However, with the changes brought on by the 21st Century Cures Act, step #3 now may occur AFTER a patient has seen the report for themselves.

There is a concern that should patients see something they do not understand on the report, they will become anxious and may immediately reach out to either the radiologist or the referring physician. These additional calls would be an additional burden on staff that are already at maximum capacity.

Radiology reports are written with a lot of medical terminology. This is because these reports are typically meant to be read and interpreted by other physicians rather than patients. The following is an example of something that might appear in a radiology report:

Noncirrhotic liver morphology. There is no focal hepatic lesion. The portal veins and hepatic veins are patent.

When a patient reads this in their radiology report, where do they go to make sense of it? Most will search for the terms on Google, but there is no guarantee that the search will always return credible sources of information.

This is where solutions from companies like SCANSLATED can help.

Plain English Radiology Reports

SCANSLATED offers a solution that helps patients understand the information on radiology reports. This solution analyzes the text of a standard radiology report, translates the medical terms into plain language, and then displays the report in a patient-focused, interactive webpage format.

Patients simply click on medical terms and phrases to show and an explanation appears alongside the report. For example:

By rendering the reports in plain English, SCANSLATED is helping to empower patients. They are giving them the knowledge and understanding they need to become more active in their care. Their solution also helps reduce the burden on staff since patients may be less likely to call with questions about their radiology reports.

“Patient engagement is about more than access to results,” said SCANSLATED’s co-founder and CEO, Dr. Nicholas T. Befera. “It’s about giving patients the tools and confidence to fully participate in their care alongside providers. By empowering patients to better understand their health information, not only are we improving the patient-provider relationship, but we have a real opportunity to help patients live healthier and happier lives.”

SCANSLATED will be at the upcoming RSNA 2022 conference in Chicago Nov 25-28. They will be at Booth #7608 in the North exhibit hall. You can also learn more about their solution at www.scanslated.com; by following them on LinkedIn, or requesting a demo at [email protected]slated.com

SCANSLATED is a sponsor of Healthcare Scene.

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