Study: Nighthawks viewed as more than a convenience

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Of the reasons that healthcare facilities use radiology nighthawk services, convenience, value for recruiting, and efficiency topped the list of factors in deciding to use the service, according to a new study presented at the American Roentgen Ray Society’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. on May 8.

The study looked at 300 hospitals using external nighthawk services that were asked questions relating to the motivation, demographics, and selection of nighthawk services, financial arrangements and level of training.

A majority of the facilities said convenience was the most important reason for using a nighthawk service, said Adam Kaye, a medical student at Yale University, and lead author of the study. The second most important reason was the value for recruiting. Also, excessive volume was a common motivator.

Of participating hospitals, 51 percent of practices said that 1-5 percent of their reads come from nighthawk service and 22 percent said that they receive less than 1 percent. The study also showed that about 40 percent of the participants use an international nighthawk service based outside the U.S. Of these, 40 percent did not know the proportion of foreigners or Americans reading films.

“While the results of this study may not have direct impact on patient care, knowledge of the utilization of after-hours teleradiology services may provide important information regarding both the current state and the future of such services,” said Kaye. “Hopefully we can use the information from our study as a basis for future, similar studies to document the progression of this relatively new and somewhat controversial topic,” he said.