What are the benefits and risks of sharing patients’ diagnostic radiological images with them? A cross-sectional study of the perceptions of patients and clinicians in the UK.


Objectives The objective for this work was to assess clinical experts’ and patients’ opinions on the benefits and risks of sharing patients’ diagnostic radiological images with them.

Setting This study was conducted outside of the primary and secondary care settings. Clinical experts were recruited at a UK national imaging and oncology conference, and patients were recruited via social media.

Participants 121 clinical experts and 282 patients completed the study. A further 73 patient and 10 clinical expert responses were discounted due to item non-response. Individuals were required to be a minimum of 18 years of age at the time of participation.

Primary and secondary outcome measures This study was exploratory in nature. As such, the outcomes to be measured for demonstration of the successful completion of this study were generated organically through the process of the investigation itself. These were: (1) the delineation of the benefits available from, and the risks posed by, widening access to diagnostic radiological images; (2) establishment of the level and nature of demand for access to diagnostic radiological images; and (3) the identification of stakeholder requirements for accessing available benefit from diagnostic radiological images.

Results 403 usable questionnaires were returned consisting of responses from clinical experts (n=121) and patients (n=282). Both groups acknowledge the potential benefits of this practice. Examples included facilitating communication, promoting patient engagement and supporting patients in accepting health information shared with them. However, both groups also recognised risks associated with image sharing, such as the potential for patients to be upset or confused by their images.

Conclusions There is a demand from patients for access to their diagnostic radiological images alongside acknowledgement from clinical experts that there may be benefits available from this. However, due to the acknowledged risks, there is also a need to carefully manage this interaction.

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