Emergency physicians' attitudes and preferences regarding computed tomography, radiation exposure, and imaging decision support

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Objectives Although computerized decision support for imaging is often recommended for optimizing computed tomography (CT) use, no studies have evaluated emergency physicians' (EPs') preferences regarding computerized decision support in the emergency department (ED). In this needs assessment, the authors sought to determine if EPs view overutilization as a problem, if they want decision support, and if so, the kinds of support they prefer. Methods A 42-item, Web-based survey of EPs was developed and used to measure EPs' attitudes, preferences, and knowledge. Key contacts at local EDs sent letters describing the study to their physicians. Exploratory principal components analysis (PCA) was used to determine the underlying factor structure of multi-item scales, Cronbach's alpha was used to measure internal consistency of items on a scale, Spearman correlations were used to describe bivariate associations, and multivariable linear regression analysis was used to identify variables independently associated with physician interest in decision support. Results Of 235 surveys sent, 155 (66%) EPs responded. Five factors emerged from the PCA. EPs felt that: 1) CT overutilization is a problem in the ED (α = 0.75); 2) a patient's cumulative CT study count affects decisions of whether and what type of imaging study to order only some of the time (α = 0.75); 3) knowledge that a patient has had prior CT imaging for the same indication makes EPs less likely to order a CT (α = 0.42); 4) concerns about malpractice, patient satisfaction, or insistence on CTs affect CT ordering decisions (α = 0.62); and 5) EPs want decision support before ordering CTs (α = 0.85). Performance on knowledge questions was poor, with only 18% to 39% correctly responding to each of the three multiple-choice items about effective radiation doses of chest radiograph and single-pass abdominopelvic CT, as well as estimated increased risk of cancer from a 10-mSv exposure. Although EPs wanted information on patients' cumulative exposures, they feel inadequately familiar with this information to make use of it clinically. If provided with patients' cumulative radiation exposures from CT, 87% of EPs said that they would use this information to discuss imaging options with their patients. In the multiple regression model, which included all variables associated with interest in decision support at p < 0.10 in bivariate tests, items independently associated with EPs' greater interest in all types of decision support proposed included lower total knowledge scores, greater frequency that cumulative CT study count affects EP's decision to order CTs, and greater agreement that overutilization of CT is a problem and that awareness of multiple prior CTs for a given indication affects CT ordering decisions. Conclusions Emergency physicians view overutilization of CT scans as a problem with potential for improvement in the ED and would like to have more information to discuss risks with their patients. EPs are interested in all types of imaging decision support proposed to help optimize imaging ordering in the ED and to reduce radiation to their patients. Findings reveal several opportunities that could potentially affect CT utilization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)768-777
Number of pages10
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014


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