A single radiologist can perform numerous procedures, read over 150 studies a day, and work an average of eight- to sixteen-hour shifts. In addition, their workload is quickly rising as patient volumes increase, profits shrink, and software improves by leaps and bounds. This perpetual wheel of ongoing changes in healthcare is a breeding ground for stress and feeling overworked. Between growing administrative duties, add-ons, emergencies, and out-of-control schedules, reading more images may feel like threading a camel through the eye of a needle. The impact on radiologists with increased reading volume in an imaging practice ultimately may lead to burnout. Research has shown that the length of shifts, radiology schedules, and increased volumes directly correlate to doctors' and patients' health outcomes.
In everyone's career, there will be times when that “meh” feeling becomes associated with the job. Under normal circumstances, a few days off and perhaps a bit of fun in the sun can ease the ho-hums of going into work. Burnout is when there is no recovery from mental fatigue and the loss of motivation and enthusiasm. According to a 2018 survey by Medscape, radiologist career fatigue ranked number seven out of twenty-nine physician specialties participating in the survey, and 45% of radiologists experienced apathy toward their careers. The impact on radiologists' increased reading volume in an imaging practice has had an implosive effect on medicine.
Increased volume reading may result in more revenue, but the consequences of pushing a doctor past their limits to do more may overshadow profit margins by increasing discrepancies and errors, resulting in misdiagnoses. Injuries can occur when a radiologist is tired mentally and physically. These factors contribute to unnecessary expenses to facilities and most notably, to patients.
Another factor throwing gasoline on the embers of a tuckered-out radiologist is the failure by leaders to acknowledge that radiologists may be working beyond safe and practical measures. Lack of support, extended shifts, and little to no acknowledgment for hard work may usher imaging doctors out the door.
Mixed in the fray of radiologists' work discontent is isolation in a darkened room for long hours with little contact with the outside. Another significant impact on radiologists' increased reading volume in an imaging practice is that many facilities may require radiologists to read images outside their specialty. Throw in outdated or ill-designed software, and stress and anxiety increase and accuracy rates drop.
IT software can be an effective tool for helping ward off burnout when developers get design input from radiologists. Inadequate radiology software delivers a massive punch to what may be already burned-out staff. Well-designed software should not aggravate patients, staff, or burden radiologists. It should help everyone work smarter, not harder.
Radiology burnout can be reduced when the PACS offers them a way to customize the workflow to their liking, use automated features, and see images load quickly. Routine quality measures of radiology IT systems, like picture archiving and communication systems, electronic medical records, and scheduling software, are needed to ensure that they are current and beneficial. All-in-one workstations that view all modalities can do away with unnecessary, cumbersome equipment. Built-in contradictory alerts can reduce errors and offer corrective options. One- to two-click templates make the mundane and frustrating task of moving through applications more accessible. Improved voice recognition and auto-start dictation and editing features go a long way toward minimizing the angst of repeating words over and over, only to have to pause and manually enter the text. Easy access to IT systems anywhere and an excellent ergonomic computer and room setup can minimize stress.
CEOs, radiology managers, and other radiologists have to meet often in a setting that fosters security, support, and autonomy. Honest and open dialogue can make all the difference in the world to struggling radiologists. In addition, long work hours and on-call schedules need restructuring and workloads distributed among colleagues and staff.
As radiologists' burnout gains more recognition, organizations such as the National Academy of Medicine and WellMD are already on board to humanize the topic and provide necessary tools to help organizations and radiologists re-engage in their careers. Every radiologist owes it to themselves to advocate for their wellbeing and changes in their work environment.
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!