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Reported April 17, 2013

Pictures Decrease Wrong Patient Mistakes

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- X-rays can tell doctors a lot about a patient, but only if that x-ray belongs to the right patient! Since x-rays can look very much alike, wrong patient errors in which an x-ray is matched to the wrong patient does occur occasionally, but a new study finds there’s a simple solution to this problem. By attaching patient photographs to their x-rays, the number of wrong patient errors is reduced fivefold.

Study researchers asked ten radiologists to examine 20 pairs of radiographic images, some of which included photographs. The radiologists were able to identify a mismatch 64% of the time when a photograph was attached compared to only a 13% error detection rate when a picture was not used.

With such low rates of detecting a mismatch without a patient photo, it is no surprise that wrong patient errors are not uncommon today.

“I estimate that about one out of 10,000 examinations have wrong-patient errors,” study author Dr. Srini Tridandapani from Emory University was quoted as saying.

After instructing the radiologists to look at the photographs as well as the x-rays in a second study, the chances of spotting a mismatch became even greater.

“The error detection rate went up to 94% in the second study,” Dr. Tridandapani was quoted as saying.

An added benefit to attaching pictures to x-rays is it shortened the amount of time needed for radiologists to interpret the pictures. Researchers theorize that this could be due to possible clues within the pictures themselves as to the patient’s diagnosis.

While extra workers were used in the study to take patients’ photographs after their x-ray examination, a camera mounted onto a portable x-ray machine would provide photographs without needing to add more personnel.

SOURCE: Presentation at the American Roentgen Ray Society Annual Meeting, April 2013

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