BACKGROUND - Scant knowledge exists describing health care providers' and staffs' experiences sharing imaging studies. Additional research is needed to determine the extent to which imaging studies are shared in diverse health care settings, and the extent to which provider or practice characteristics are associated with barriers to viewing external imaging studies on portable media.
OBJECTIVE - This analysis uses qualitative data to 1) examine how providers and their staff accessed outside medical imaging studies, 2) examine whether use or the desire to use imaging studies conducted at outside facilities varied by provider specialty or location (urban, suburban, and small town) and 3) delineate difficulties experienced by providers or staff as they attempted to view and use imaging studies available on portable media.
METHODS - Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 85 health care providers and medical facility staff from urban, suburban, and small town medical practices in North Carolina and Virginia. The interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, then systematically analyzed using ATLAS.ti.
RESULTS - Physicians at family and pediatric medicine practices rely primarily on written reports for medical studies other than X-rays; and thus do not report difficulties accessing outside imaging studies. Subspecialists in urban, suburban, and small towns view imaging studies through internal communication systems, internet portals, or portable media. Many subspecialists and their staff report experiencing difficulty and time delays in accessing and using imaging studies on portable media.
CONCLUSION - Subspecialists have distinct needs for viewing imaging studies that are not shared by typical primary care providers. As development and implementation of technical strategies to share medical records continue, this variation in need and use should be noted. The sharing and viewing of medical imaging studies on portable media is often inefficient and fails to meet the needs of many subspeciality physicians, and can lead to repeated imaging studies.