Patients' Use and Evaluation of an Online System to Annotate Radiology Reports with Lay Language Definitions

  • Tessa S. Cook
    Department of Radiology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3400 Spruce St., Philadelphia, PA 19104

    Institute for Biomedical Informatics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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  • Seong Cheol Oh
    Department of Radiology, Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
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  • Charles E. Kahn Jr
    Address correspondence to: C.E.K.
    Department of Radiology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3400 Spruce St., Philadelphia, PA 19104

    Institute for Biomedical Informatics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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Published:April 19, 2017DOI:

      Rationale and Objectives

      The increasing availability of personal health portals has made it easier for patients to obtain their imaging results online. However, the radiology report typically is designed to communicate findings and recommendations to the referring clinician, and may contain many terms unfamiliar to lay readers. We sought to evaluate a web-based interface that presented reports of knee MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) examinations with annotations that included patient-oriented definitions, anatomic illustrations, and hyperlinks to additional information.

      Materials and Methods

      During a 7-month observational trial, a statement added to all knee MRI reports invited patients to view their annotated report online. We tracked the number of patients who opened their reports, the terms they hovered over to view definitions, and the time hovering over each term. Patients who accessed their annotated reports were invited to complete a survey.


      Of 1138 knee MRI examinations during the trial period, 185 patients (16.3%) opened their report in the viewing portal. Of those, 141 (76%) hovered over at least one term to view its definition, and 121 patients (65%) viewed a mean of 27.5 terms per examination and spent an average of 3.5 minutes viewing those terms. Of the 22 patients who completed the survey, 77% agreed that the definitions helped them understand the report and 91% stated that the illustrations were helpful.


      A system that provided definitions and illustrations of the medical and technical terms in radiology reports has potential to improve patients' understanding of their reports and their diagnoses.

      Key Words

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