Patient Callbacks: Why They Happen and How to Prevent Them

Updated: May 8


Patients who undergo an imaging study are sometimes asked to return for additional testing. These “callbacks” can damage patient trust and increase anxiety. It can also increase costs and take up valuable staff time.


In a recent issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology, researchers looked at the most common causes of callbacks for outpatient CT and MRI tests. You can read the abstract online, or request access to the full article.


Common causes of radiology callbacks


Researchers from the University of Michigan found 194 callbacks among 147,068 MRI and 195,578 CT examinations. The callback rate for MRI testing was nearly nine times that of CT.

After analyzing these tests, the researchers identified the most common reasons for callbacks:


  • Protocol error made up 28 percent of callbacks, half of which were attributed to a resident or fellow

  • Inadequate anatomic coverage made up about 21 percent of callbacks, about half of which occurred before the exam due to insufficient patient history or radiologist error

  • Incomplete examination accounted for 13 percent of callbacks

  • Perceived sub-optimal image quality, including poor signal-to-noise ratio and inadequate fat saturation, caused about 11 percent of callbacks


Researchers determined that the first three causes usually could have been prevented.


How to prevent radiology callbacks


Although callbacks are relatively rare, targeted improvements can further reduce their occurrence. Some of these may include:


  • Improved communications between referrers and radiologists and between radiologists and technicians

  • Improved imaging systems

  • Ensuring that the imaging center and staff have all the correct patient and order information before the imaging appointment


The right imaging solution can help reduce the risk of callbacks. Novarad’s suite of clinical solutions and radiology enterprise solutions can increase imaging accuracy and speed up image sharing, thus reducing costs, callbacks, and patient anxiety. Contact us to learn more.


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