The use of information and digital technology varies widely in acute hospital radiology departments, according to a survey published this week by the Audit Commission for England and Wales.

The report, based on figures gathered in April 2001, records that only a minority of departments were able to provide referring clinicians with access to digital images (29%), although most could give referring clinicians access to electronic versions of written reports (69%).

A detailed breakdown of the survey’s findings on IT and digital technology use reveals that computerised requesting was available in just over 21% of departments although electronic booking was only available for a tiny minority – about 2%.

The capacity to send images and reports together electronically was also quite rare (6%), though teleradiology with other hospitals was available in nearly 60% of departments.

Access for referring clinicians to images was available in CD-ROM format in 40% of departments and via a digital image archive in 22%.

The report, which takes a broad look at many aspects of radiology services says, “Use of digital images can also increase the speed of reporting, as well as allow improved manipulation of images, particularly if combined with electronic transmission of the report.

However this requires substantial capital funding, and to achieve benefits the investment in technology needs to be combined with improvements in work processes.”