protecting yourself from teleradiology errors in pittsburgh

Our last few posts have discussed the medical nightmares of a 30-year-old woman from Pennsylvania. She spent 11 weeks in a coma after several radiologists failed to communicate the life-threatening problems that could arise from fluid around her brain.

Despite visiting the ER after business hours, teleradiology made it possible for her scans to be reviewed by experienced radiologists immediately, so each time she visited the ER, her CT scans were outsourced. Communication is a crucial part of teleradiology, and unfortunately, there was a breakdown in that communication in this case. The miscommunication led to a failure to diagnose the abscess that nearly killed her.

While her story is devastating, it is not the only one of its kind. Patients expect to receive competent care from professionals who are in constant and clear communication with each other when they are at the hospital, but that is not always what happens. What can patients do to help ensure they are not the victims of negligent radiologists? The following tips may give you a few ideas.

With teleradiology, teamwork and good communication are crucial. Some top-notch teleradiology companies offer video conferencing between radiologists and clinicians, with the option of including the patient. When that isn’t available, patients can encourage thorough communication.

After your X-ray, CT scan or MRI is taken, you can ask questions to help ensure there is sufficient back-and-forth between your doctor and the radiologist reading the scans. The former president of the American College of Radiology suggested asking the following questions when your scan is taken:

  • Where will my study be interpreted?
  • Is the radiologist credentialed to read it?
  • Is the facility accredited by a national agency?

Ask your doctor whether he or she included a brief summary of your case, including your symptoms, medications and a diagram of where you hurt. That information can be scanned into the computer and sent with your scans. It’s also okay to ask your doctor explicitly whether he or she talked to the radiologist.

Finally, you can also request a copy of the report that is prepared by the radiologist. This allows you to know who read your scan. In addition, if your symptoms persist and you suspect misdiagnosis, you can ask for a second opinion from a different doctor.

Patients who are disoriented or in severe pain may not be able to act as their own best advocates. The ideas above can also be helpful for spouses or family members of patients undergoing radiological testing at a Pennsylvania hospital or medical facility.

When you receive a diagnosis based on a radiological test like a CT scan or MRI, you may assume the doctors or radiologists are correct. After all, they are the professionals. However, they are also human, and humans make mistakes. You may feel uncomfortable quizzing your doctor or asking for more information, but when it comes to your health, aren’t you willing to do whatever it takes to protect yourself?

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

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