CHICAGO The role of radiologists in healthcare has long been poorly understood among the general public, but new research presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) shows that even patients who've had imaging exams in the past know little about the profession.
Researchers said the study findings highlight an opportunity for radiologists to educate the public about their role in healthcare.
"We know from previous studies that about half of the general public doesn't even know that radiologists are physicians," said Peter D. Miller, M.D., radiology resident at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. "In our study, only 53.5 percent of patients who had undergone computed tomography (CT) knew that radiologists were physicians."
The roots of the new study trace back to a speech by the late Gary Glazer, M.D., former chair of the Department of Radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, Calif., and Gold Medal recipient at the 2009 RSNA annual meeting.
"When we saw him speak at RSNA, it inspired us to start our own study at Indiana University School of Medicine," Dr. Miller said.
Dr. Miller and colleagues focused on patients undergoing outpatient CT at the university hospital. During a four-month period, they asked adult patients if they would be willing to meet with a radiologist and complete two brief surveys concerning radiologists and their role in healthcare. Of the 307 patients surveyed, almost half had at least a college education or higher.
Slightly more than 64 percent of respondents reported that they had little or no idea what radiologists do. Only 35.8 percent reported having much understanding, despite the fact that almost 83 percent replied that is was important or very important to know who interprets their imaging exams. Overall experience was reported as very positive by 70 percent of those who met a radiologi
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Radiological Society of North America