Friday, May 28, 2010

Echocardiograms Not Interpreted

With all that is going on in health care, now we have something new to worry about.  

"Nearly 4,000 tests for heart disease performed over the last three years at Harlem Hospital Center — more than half of all such tests performed — were never read by doctors charged with making a diagnosis, hospital officials acknowledged Tuesday." 

People assume medical testing is scrutinized rigorously by Doctors interested in only the highest quality medical testing and treatment.  The public assumes that when they talk to their Doctor about a medical test or procedure, the discussion is based upon rigid quality assurance.  For example; if the Doctor calls a patient to tell them their mammogram is normal, most people assume they have nothing more to worry about.  This article regarding echocardiograms that were never reviewed by a physician is a clarion reminder that patients must always be involved in their medical care.  As an echocardiographer, it pains me to read it knowing that serious diseases or conditions could have gone unreported.  We echocardiographers are charged with obtaining diagnostic information and images to be reviewed by a qualified physician so a medical diagnosis can be made.  An echocardiographer does not generate a final report, or a medical diagnosis from the images obtained from an echocardiogram.  Many institutions require the echocardiographer to generate a preliminary report, but that is not the same as a physician reviewed final report. Most of my colleagues will cringe when they read this piece.

"While the process the doctors followed may have alerted cardiologists to those echocardiograms that were most likely to be abnormal, the failure to read the echocardiograms in a timely manner is inexcusable and may have placed patients at risk,” Alan D. Aviles, hospitals corporation president, said in the statement." 

Read the full article here.   
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/26/nyregion/26hospital.html
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