Can Hospital-based Cell Phones Improve Communications Between Doctors?

In late April, the Journal of the American College of Radiology published an article about the research colleagues and I had done on the quality of communications between radiologists and physicians in our hospitals. The written radiology report is, of course, the mainstay of communication between radiologists and referring providers. Often, however, we radiologists need to discuss cases with referring providers in a timelier manner. When that is necessary, we found that using a set of hospital-based cell phones, as opposed to pagers or hospital landlines, improved communication.

In our research, we found that “phone calls between radiology and neurology often added more clinical history to aid interpretation, resulting in changes to differential diagnoses in 47 percent of cases” (as reported in We also found radiologists and referring doctors both reported increased satisfaction with the cell phones over earlier methods,  but the neurologists especially seemed to appreciate the improvement: they reported “contacting radiology residents between three and six times per night, that the phones improved communication and that the time required to reach radiology was short.”

While issues of security, cost and electrical interference must be considered with cell phone use, the opportunity for improved communication may ultimately outweigh these factors.