The last time you had an x-ray, mammogram or similar test, did you ask your imaging tech if everything looked OK?
If the answer is yes, you’re not alone.
It’s human nature to want the results of medical tests as soon as possible.
Susan Edwards, manager of Regional One Health’s East Campus Imaging Center, said her imaging technicians get asked for a diagnosis all the time.
All of the center’s imaging techs are trained and licensed to administer exams like x-rays, CT scans, MRIs and mammograms.
They are also trained to politely decline requests for test results.
The Imaging Center’s protocol is to tell patients their results must come from their doctor.
“Plenty of patients ask, but techs should not give information and should not even react to what they’re seeing on the image,” Edwards said. “They aren’t doctors, and while they do know how to get around your anatomy, they aren’t qualified to diagnose you.”
That is true even though the tech likely knows the answer to your question.
Imaging techs administer thousands of scans a year. They know if what they’re seeing on the screen is a cause for concern, Edwards acknowledged.
And, if they see something that is not just a concern but a medical emergency, they will have a radiologist read your test immediately.
If the radiologist confirms the emergency, you’ll be sent for emergency care.
But it’s simply not their position to share diagnostic information with a patient.
“Your test needs to be read by a diagnostic radiologist, and the results go back to your physician. Your physician reads the report and then discusses it with you,” Edwards said.
The biggest reason for that policy is that only a medical doctor has the training and experience to make a diagnosis.
There are other reasons too:
Patients are more likely to have a pre-existing relationship with their doctor than their imaging tech. Therefore, patients tend to be more comfortable getting difficult news from their doctor.
Doctors also know the patient’s entire medical history, which impacts diagnosis. The tech only has an isolated set of images at their disposal.
Finally, patients who get a difficult diagnosis will undoubtedly have follow-up questions. A tech can’t answer these. Only your doctor can discuss your prognosis, treatment options, etc.
Edwards said the East Campus offers quick turnaround on tests. Most patients have their results within 48 hours.
Also, Edwards said, patients can request a copy of their results after the radiologist reads the test. “People do have a right to see their reports,” she said. However, she stressed the reports should always be discussed with a doctor to create an appropriate treatment plan.