MD For Patients

Radiologic Myths Busted | Myth 3: Your doctor is familiar with your complete medical history – even if you change locations.

Imagine this hypothetical scenario: A year into your followup, you see a report of your most recent MRI scan stating that the…

4 min read

Imagine this hypothetical scenario:

A year into your followup, you see a report of your most recent MRI scan stating that the exam is “normal” and that “no lesion is seen.” You’re confused. Didn’t the radiologist know where to look, and that you have a long history of a lesion that was being followed up?

Um, no. That is, you’re correct to be confused and concerned, but no, the radiologist did not know your history, nor where to look for a lesion, nor did she have your prior exams for comparison. You moved to a new city a month ago due to a job change, and your medical imaging exams didn’t go with you. It’s as though your imaging is starting from scratch.

Nerve-wracking, shocking, and yet – all too common.

How can this be the case in healthcare – that your images don’t easily transfer around the country or even across the street so that your new physicians can refer to them? How can it be that in this day and age, you have ATM cards that will pull cash out of a machine in Bangkok from your checking account in Denver, yet your medical imaging is as unobtainable to your new physicians as your physical checkbook was to you while you were away from home on vacation?

We can blame it on the history of healthcare IT – and turf issues.

Unfortunately, healthcare information technology and interoperability severely lags behind the consumer electronics and banking industries. Your phone’s operating system is far more interoperable than that of the workstations your doctors use to diagnose your case. And those Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) that we were all told would make rendering healthcare so much easier, more efficient, and more accurate? They have in many cases just added more workload to an already overburdened medical staff while further confusing – not shedding light on – many issues in healthcare coordination and communication.

EMRs were built as billing tools to capture more charges more efficiently, not to improve patient care, and not to improve the efficiency of physicians’ work. Moreover, there is a history of hospitals and healthcare networks actively resisting efforts to share patient data – because ownership of the data helps each institution avoid losing its patients to competitors.

Since they were not designed with healthcare providers’ workflow in mind, nor to share patient data easily, EMRs have demonstrably degraded the experience of providing care for many physicians, and they are frequently (and intentionally) not helpful to patients switching healthcare institutions, locations, or providers.

This is another major reason I founded MD For Patients: all too often, radiologists – indeed, all healthcare providers – make diagnostic decisions and create permanent reports based on incomplete information about patients. Often, they don’t know that the “headache” they see as the reason for today’s CT scan could be related to your history of a brain lesion that has been imaged, is being followed, and had a particular appearance two months ago, and two months before that.

Imagine how much information is missing in even more complicated cases for this reason. Information that could be critical in helping the radiologist and other healthcare providers reach accurate diagnostic conclusions. But because EMRs and other healthcare network technology does not share information well, your imaging data and results may be siloed and unavailable to your new care providers.

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More MRIs, more problems.

As a result, in your new city, the hospital recommends repeating your MRI “for an update, and for our records.” Who pays for that? You and (maybe) your insurance, if you have insurance. Is it medically necessary? Often, no it’s not – if your prior imaging exams and reports had simply transferred to your new physician’s EMR, your physician could see them and you wouldn’t need this additional MRI. But because that data transfer is so difficult, many institutions routinely repeat diagnostic testing when they take on a new patient. This causes financial waste, inconvenience, unnecessary delays, and needless risk.

A better solution is ahead…

MD For Patients was founded in part to address this common problem. The practice can help in these situations by providing a review of imaging from all of your prior institutions and generating an integrated, comprehensive summary of the testing you’ve undergone everywhere.

This can be done without requiring you to undergo any repeat of unnecessary, redundant testing. This summary – and possibly even copies of these exams – can be provided to your new physicians, so that their records can be updated with a far more complete and comprehensive picture of your healthcare history and testing. This can help save you money, time, and improve the accuracy of your ongoing treatment. It may also help make connections between pieces of your healthcare data that were previously not connected in your medical records. Siloed healthcare data is a major reason for medical errors, and this is another way that MD For Patients is attempting to help reduce errors while addressing this common problem in healthcare.

Thank you for mythbusting with us today.

If you or your family could benefit from a second opinion or case review at MD For Patients, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are here to help.