Medical Technologist vs. Doctor: Who Provides My Results?
January 17, 2020
Why Won’t the Medical Technologist Discuss My Imaging?
This question burns inside most patients that visit Insight Medical Imaging. It doesn’t matter if your doctor refers you for a simple x-ray or a more complicated MRI, you want to know your results as soon as possible.
It’s understandable why patients assume our medical technologists are qualified to discuss exam results. Technologists gain experience by conducting tens of thousands of scans throughout their careers. However, performing these scans and examining the images require two very different skill sets and levels of education. While we encourage our technologists to answer any questions within their scope of responsibility or practice, they will never provide a patient with a diagnosis, such as a broken bone.
Instead, it is the referring doctor’s role to discuss the exam results, diagnosis, and treatment options with their patients. While this may seem insensitive or frustrating, there are many reasons for this standard of practice.
Respect for the Doctor-Patient Relationship
While we always strive to connect with our patients in a meaningful way, we also respect the fiduciary relationship between a patient and their doctor. As Chipidza et al. (2015) state, the doctor-patient relationship involves vulnerability and is one of the most moving and meaningful experiences shared by human beings. The foundation of the doctor-patient relationship is built on mutual trust, knowledge, loyalty, and regard. If a patient is going to hear feedback that may impact their health or well-being, either positively or negatively, it should come from a healthcare professional they trust implicitly and have a pre-existing relationship with.
Previews Alone Are Insufficient for Diagnosis
Which photo would you rather hang on your living room wall: one taken with a 0.3-megapixel brick flip phone or one taken with a 45.7-megapixel professional Nikon DSLR? Assuming all other factors are consistent, you would likely choose the professional-grade Nikon camera.
This comparison in photo quality is a metaphor for the difference in viewing quality between the exam room previews and the images our radiologists review for diagnosis. The screens you look at in the exam room provide previews of the area of interest. Our medical technologists review the previews to ensure they capture all angles and viewpoints necessary for diagnosis. The actual RAW image files are transferred and examined by our radiologists on state-of-the-art display systems that cost almost $20,000!
To say there is a difference in viewing quality is a massive understatement. The advanced display systems use over 10 million pixels to show different variances in grey. These advanced display systems highlight potential micro-fractures, soft tissue damage, trauma, abnormalities, and more than you would ever see on a preview screen in the exam room. The exceptional detail from our professional display systems ensures that nothing is missed, leading to rapid diagnosis and a faster treatment plan.
Legally, Medical Technologists Are Not Permitted
Medical technologists are legally not allowed to discuss results with a patient. It doesn’t matter whether you are having an x-ray, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or a nuclear medicine exam. Our governing bodies prohibit technologists from sharing or interpreting exam results to ensure the highest standard of medical care.
Respective Roles in the Healthcare Journey
Our medical technologists’ job is capturing the best possible images for diagnosis. They spend, on average, two-four years at post-secondary institutions training with specific equipment so they can capture the clearest, most precise images for our radiologists.
Our radiologists, not technologists, will interpret the captured images. While you may think it is easy to look at an x-ray and diagnose a broken arm, our radiologists dive much more in-depth.
It is important to understand that while our technologists spend two-four years training how to take the best pictures, our radiologists devote at minimum, thirteen years towards post-secondary education learning how to interpret your diagnostic images. Combine that with additional years of specialization and industry experience, and you can rest easy knowing that the most qualified individuals are reviewing your images.
After our radiologists have interpreted the images, a detailed report is sent to your referring doctor, usually within one or two business days. Your doctor, who has on average, seven to ten years of medical education and training, will review the report and consider other essential factors such as patient history, before forming a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan. Remember, your doctor knows you best!
We Want the Best for Our Patients
When you visit Insight Medical Imaging, know that our team is always working diligently to come up with a timely and accurate diagnosis for you. We understand you are anxiously awaiting results, which is why we do our best to make you feel comfortable in the uneasy situation. We refuse to skip steps in the healthcare journey that may lead to compromised results. That is why we are always willing to work with your doctor, combining over 20 years of education to ensure you receive the highest standard of medical care and treatment available.
- Chipidza, F., Stern, T., Wallwork,R. (2015). Impact od the Doctor-Patient Relationship. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4732308/