SIIM: Bridging gaps between IT and radiology

LONG BEACH, CALIF.— Radiologists rely on quality IT professionals to keep systems running, but breakdowns in communication and misunderstandings between the two groups can lead to barriers and a less than cordial work environment.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM), Adam H. Kaye, MD, MBA, of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, revealed a survey given to radiologists and IT staff at his institution that showed both groups had much to learn about each other.

The survey, completed by 95 radiologists and 14 IT staff members, indicated that most in both camps had few issues with professionalism during their encounters, but they weren’t in sync when it came to understanding each other’s workloads. For example, radiologists’ mean estimate of the number of workstations in the department was 87, while IT staff pegged the number at an average of 224. Radiologists guessed the number of calls to the overnight IT staff was 18, while IT staff had a mean estimate of six.

The largest gap came in the estimate of the number of studies read per day. Radiologists submitted a mean estimate of 1,729, while IT staff estimated the number to be more than 85,000. This wildly high average was inflated by three unreasonably high guesses—one IT staff member responded that 650,000 studies were read per day—and once these outliers were removed, the mean estimate for the IT staff fell below that of the radiologists to 1,118.

Communication is key, and Kaye explained that after the initial survey, four IT staff and four trainee radiologists volunteered to shadow a member of the other group for about an hour to learn the workflow. A post-survey completed by those who participated in the shadowing experiment indicated a very positive response. Participants commented that they had a better understanding of the issues their colleagues faced, and a number of them even said it helped them come up with future project ideas. One lingering IT issue, involving pre-fetching of studies for cardiovascular imaging, was solved directly as a result of shadowing by the IT staff.

“We found that it opened up more possibilities for collaboration and innovation, it created a better environment for problem solving and it reinforced this idea that just sitting down with the other group that we’re all on the same team and understanding each other’s motives and needs is paramount to better teamwork,” said Kaye.