Familiarity With Imaging Procedures Increases Patient Acceptance, Siemens Survey Shows

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A new survey indicates that patients' decision of whether or not to undergo a given imaging procedure correlates closely with their awareness of and familiarity with that particular test.

Conducted by Braun Research, Inc., and released by the Siemens Radiation Reduction Alliance (SIERRA), an expert panel established to advance the cause of dose reduction in medical imaging, the survey evaluated the decision-making process of more than 1,000 participants in response to situations where a medical scan is recommended by a physician.

Participants were asked questions regarding the use of medical imaging tests, followed by five real-life scenarios of varying severity wherein each respondent was asked to decide whether to move forward with a specific medical imaging test for themselves or a loved one. The results show a direct correlation between consumers’ familiarity with a given medical imaging test and the likelihood that they will move forward with that test at the recommendation of a physician.

Of the technologies highlighted in the survey, consumers were most aware of medical X-rays (96%) and said they would follow the physician's recommendation for a medical X-ray in the survey scenario (88%).

Consumers were least familiar with nuclear heart scan technology, with just over one-third (39%) having undergone or heard of the procedure. Only 28% of respondents indicated that they would follow a physician's recommendation to submit to such a test.

In other survey findings, 90% of participants correctly identified, in response to an open-ended question, the primary use of medical imaging tests, and roughly two in five respondents (41%) cited radiation exposure as a risk associated with medical imaging tests.

However, the survey demonstrates, adults are unsure about which technologies use radiation to produce images and which do not. Notably, a respective 23% and 60% of individuals queried put ultrasound and MRI on the list of technologies whose use involves ionizing radiation.

Despite the perceived risk of radiation exposure, respondents, in reviewing all options in the five survey scenarios, stated nearly 80% of the time that they would proceed with a medical imaging test recommended by a physician. These results, according to SIERRA panel scientists, suggest that many Americans recognize that the benefits of medical imaging outweigh potential concerns about radiation.

"There is a big opportunity here to provide more education to our patients about the differences between various imaging tests," says SIERRA panel scientist Cynthia McCollough, PhD, a medical physicist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "While some tests are similar with regard to the information they provide, their cost and potential risks, there are many situations where one type of imaging exam is more accurate, faster, safer, or less expensive. Knowing about these differences can help patients understand why their physician has recommended one test versus another."