If you had an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI in the last few years, there’s a good chance it was analyzed outside of the hospital or maybe even outside of the United States.
This is the increasingly common practice of “outsourcing radiology” – the practice of having x-rays , CT scans and MRI’s read by an off-site radiologist.
Is this a bad thing?
In some ways, it makes sense to send your radiology scans to an outside facility.
- The cost can be much lower for a radiologist who serves many hospitals.
- X-rays and exams can be returned quickly, even in the middle of the night.
- Your tests can be reviewed by a specialist – a particular benefit for smaller or rural hospitals with fewer staff.
However, there are some very serious risks that come with outsourcing medical care. The biggest concern? It is not clear which doctor is supposed to provide the diagnosis.
How can a radiologist who has no contact with you, and little to no contact with your doctor, have any context for diagnosing you? How can a doctor who doesn’t specialize in radiology properly interpret your exams? What if no one puts all the pieces together? Then you are left with an incomplete picture of your injury or illness.
The practice of radiology has 4 components, as identified by the American College of Radiology
- Seeing the patient to make sure the right tests are ordered
- Supervising and monitoring the exam
- Interpretation of the exam results (the only step that could possibly be completed from a remote location)
- Meeting with the doctor and possibly the patient
Outsourcing radiology abdicates 3 of 4 of the core responsibilities of radiologists.
Read about some of the radiology malpractice claims in this article published last year in Self magazine, which highlights the evolving risks of radiology.