Burnout in Radiology: How to Combat It and Remain Efficient

burnout in radiology

Burnout—the reaction to stressful work conditions marked by exhaustion, cynicism, and depersonalization—is quite prevalent in the healthcare industry. One study showed that more than 50% of physicians within the United States have experienced one or more symptoms of burnout.

Generally, high burnout rates lead to a lack of commitment to radiology practices, decreasing productivity among imaging staff and affecting the quality of care.

Given the effects of burnout in radiology, understanding its causes and solutions can provide important insights for radiology administrators.

What Are the Causes of Burnout in Radiology Practices?

1. Bureaucratic processes and excessive paperwork

Organizational bureaucracy is touted as a major cause of impartiality in healthcare facilities. However, it also exacts significant human costs on radiology practitioners and patients. One study pointed out that ascendant medical bureaucracy coupled with the increased need for market consolidation, containing costs, and commoditization negatively impacts physician morale.

Additionally, bureaucracies contribute to depersonalization, a classic burnout symptom that manifests as being impersonal toward patients and colleagues. With bureaucratic radiologic processes, decision-making is based on institutionally defined groupings. Often, institutionally-defined classifications become more important in policymaking and management than the medical needs of patients and the well-being of practitioners. The resulting dissonance between adhering to policies and offering quality patient care can be unbearable for practitioners, causing demoralization and an increased likelihood of experiencing burnout.

2. Work intensity and the number of work hours

Research has demonstrated that work-life imbalance is positively correlated with burnout in radiology. High levels of burnout are closely related to poor health outcomes. Therefore, poor management of work intensity and work hours among radiology staff increases work-life conflicts, increasing the likelihood of stress among practitioners.

Increased work intensity and long work hours lead to a feeling of lack of control. Imaging staff cannot effectively manage workloads or beat deadlines. The effect is increased burnout.

The introduction of certain technologies has actually led to an increase in workload imbalance. A study titled, “Addressing Burnout in Radiologists,” showed that the introduction of picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) made possible the use of advanced cross-sectional imaging, increased the datasets to analyze, and increased the number of studies that a radiologist can read. While advances in technology have been beneficial, they have also introduced unintended effects, including decreased face-to-face consultation between radiologists and physicians and between radiologists and patients.

With the increased isolation of radiology staff, depersonalization and a feeling of lack of personal achievement become common. In time, this leads to a lack of comprehensive reports, increasing the work needed to diagnose patients in subsequent treatments. With more challenges in evaluating patient reports, your staff’s work intensity rises, leading to more work hours and increased likelihood of work-life conflicts. This results in burnout.

3. Ingrained desire to perform at the highest level

Imaging professionals are high achievers. The desire to deliver high-quality services is an ingrained trait in these professionals. However, bureaucracies and inadequacies of vital resources can create non-conducive imaging environments, affecting radiologists’ ability to perform at their most desired levels. This increases the prevalence of depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, and the feeling of lack of accomplishment in their practice. Over time, these practitioners experience higher stress levels, leading to more burnout in radiology.

How Can You Combat Burnout While Optimizing Your Efficiency?

1. Decrease clinical and administrative bureaucracies with automation

With diagnostic imaging becoming increasingly important in healthcare, numerous guidelines and regulations have been introduced to optimize practices and protect patients’ wellbeing. While noble, the introduction of different guidelines and regulations—like HIPAA, IHE, ICD-10, ACR, etc.—and the need for the radiology director to achieve compliance introduce bureaucracies. These increase the likelihood of stress and burnout in your radiology clinic or department.

Automation offers unique solutions that can help.

To clarify, automating clinical and administrative tasks helps simplify essential yet cumbersome tasks, so your imaging staff can focus on critical clinical tasks rather than an array of compliance-related ones. For instance, working with technologies that have an inbuilt HIPAA log to enhance audit and compliance can help cut compliance-related bureaucracies. Also, technology solutions that distribute images via the DICOM protocol on TCP/IP networks and that ensure SSL and VPN encryption for remote access can help simplify cumbersome processes relating to securing patient records. These help prevent fatigue and burnout in radiology departments and standalone clinics.

Incorporating the radiology solution NovaPACS into your practice can help your staff leverage HIPAA logs in the admin console, which will eliminate bureaucracies and avert the fatigue associated with checking compliance. It also helps your imaging staff avoid the stress of regular audits and the possibility of penalties.

Ultimately, reducing imaging bureaucracies via automated imaging processes can help reduce stress and fatigue in your imaging business. In turn, this reduces the likelihood of burnout among your staff.

2. Make work-life balance possible with unique workflow combinations

Study findings have shown a positive relationship between technology and work-life balance. Technology helps staff members work smart, positively impacting a radiology business’s efficiency and output. This helps prevent workload-related burnout.

For imaging practices, workflow-optimizing solutions support various role-based features and preferences. These enable end-users to access the tools that they require to remain highly productive, which helps prevent burnout in radiology practices.

Notably, the increased productivity supported by workflow-optimizing solutions helps imaging staff manage workloads, deliver exceptionally high-quality services, and overcome the effects of bureaucracies in diagnostic imaging. This helps prevent negative effects like cynicism, depersonalization, and fatigue when practicing radiology and reduces the possibility of burnout.

As an example, integrating the NovaPACS solution in your imaging business enables your staff to leverage unique workflow combinations. Notably, Novarad—NovaPACS’s developer company—enables the configuration of the radiology solution based on individual roles or individuals accessing the system. These configurations follow a user when using different workstations in a radiology department or clinic. This feature helps maintain your staff’s productivity by preventing the need to customize workstations when working on diagnostic imaging processes. It also helps eliminate fatigue and stress related to reconfiguring imaging workstations. Over time, this improves your imaging facility’s ability to prevent staff burnout.

Here at Novarad, we believe that the key to a successful imaging center is to work smarter, not harder, to deliver the type of care and outcomes that patients desire.

To see how we can help improve your workflows, feel free to reach out to our workflow specialists today!