Are PHRs a Dose Panacea?

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Cat VaskoAnother day, another article in Ye Gray Lady about accidental CT overexposure. This time, Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a radiology professor, is calling for hospitals to “be accountable by having to record the dose and reveal that to patients.”

But will that really help? Not the recording part – obviously dose needs to be recorded and tracked, and vendors are scrambling to provide this capability as fast as they can. But can it help to share the information with patients, presumably via some sort of PHR?

My first thought was “of course.” Why shouldn’t patients keep track of the information for themselves? It would be far easier than attempting to coordinate the sharing of this information across the tens of thousands of hospitals and imaging centers in the US, and perhaps more importantly, it would give patients a modicum of control over their care.

But the more I tried to visualize a future wherein my entire radiological history was at my fingertips, the more I began to wonder if this would be the smartest route. WebMD and other health information websites have already enabled anyone with a computer to experience Psych 101 Syndrome every time they have a stomachache. With cumulative dose information stored on our smartphones, would we be better able to make smart decisions about our health care, or would we just wind up obsessing over that little mSv count?

It feels downright wrong to suggest that too much information is bad for patients. But if it causes them to make bad decisions about their care, then perhaps it is. After all, most of my friends have been shocked to learn that they absorb a certain amount of radiation every time they fly. Overexposure is obviously a big issue, but when most people don’t understand what constitutes a normal level of exposure, things can get alarmist fast.

So I put it to you, faithful ImagingBiz readers. If you could get there just by clicking your heels three times, how would you choose to track cumulative radiation exposure? Do you like the PHR idea, or do you see a better way?