Since the Institute of Medicine released the path breaking To Err is Human report more than two decades ago, much has changed in the practice of medicine. The error rate for radiologists, however, still remains stubbornly high.
Technology has made many diagnostic processes much easier, but the overall radiology error rate still hovers at around 3 percent, which is a lethal number. A radiological error can lead to a diagnostic error, which can mean several things. It can mean that the patient receives the wrong treatment instead of the treatment required for his condition. He may also suffer because he doesn’t receive the actual treatment required for his condition. This delay in beginning the appropriate treatment for his condition could result in result in a worsening of the patient’s health, with possibly fatal results.
Radiologists may deal with several technologies on a daily basis, and failure to deal with these appropriately could also increase the risk of errors. For instance, a radiologist may have to work with electronic health record systems that many doctors do find cumbersome and difficult to work with. He may use medical devices, picture archiving and communication systems, and other technologies. Each technology has its own operational complexities, and when a radiologist is not able to use these technologies efficiently and effectively, it can place him at risk of making errors.
Technology can influence a radiologist’s ability to make accurate, informed decisions, but he may suffer when the technology is difficult to navigate. Handling electronic health records systems can pose actual challenges for many doctors, who say that the difficulties involved add stress to their jobs. Poor collection of medical data can affect diagnostic accuracy, while poor transmission can affect the radiologist’s ability to transmit the information effectively and in a timely manner to the physician. When too much time is required to understand how a technology must be used, the technology can actually become a distraction for the radiologist.
Experts say that radiologists must be provided more support in the use of medical technologies, for these systems to help them reduce their error risks and make more accurate decisions.