Out of the reading room: Rads’ workday includes more than interpretation

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As their role continues to evolve, on-site hospital radiologists spend a little more than a third of their time on image interpretation, while spending a larger proportion of their workday on noninterpretative tasks, according to a workflow study published in the October issue of the American Journal of Radiology.

“Policymakers, lay people, and health care workers have a limited understanding of the duties of a radiologist,” wrote Deljit Dhanoa, MD, MBA, of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and colleagues. “It is a generally perceived notion that radiologists spend most of their working day in a dark room interpreting images. Although this may have been an accurate perception in the past, the role of the modern radiologist has evolved to provide more than image-interpretation service, as confirmed by this study.”

The prospective, observational, randomized study looked at three hospitals through fall 2012. Fourteen staff radiologists were observed throughout the workday for a period of one month by a trained observer.

Results showed that the radiologists spend 36.4 percent of their clinical time on image interpretation and 43.8 percent of their time on noninterpretative tasks. These activities included quality assurance tasks, patient safety responsibilities, performing image-guided procedures and communicating with patients and other physicians, according to the authors.

Total clinical productivity of on-site radiologists was 87.7 percent. On average, the radiologists experienced six interactions per hour with other healthcare personnel, of which 81.2 percent directly influenced patient care.

Dhanoa and colleagues suggested on-site radiologists have high value for their noninterpretative activities and that “radiologists are central figures in the medical imaging department who are difficult to replace by off-site or nonradiologist image interpreters.”