Hybrid communication tool relieves radiologist burnout while cutting costs

Imaging utilization is on the rise and radiologists need a more efficient way to communicate these clinical findings, one that avoids extra tasks contributing to the burnout epidemic plaguing healthcare.

That’s what experts from NYU Langone Health’s Department of Radiology argued in a study published last month in Clinical Imaging.

“There is a need to facilitate communication of important radiological findings to referrers in the setting of increasing study volumes per radiologist and need for more rapid interpretation times to facilitate patient care,” first author, William Moore, with NYU Langone, and colleagues wrote. “In order to maintain a high level of communication without unduly burdening the radiologist, new methodologies need to be explored.”

Their proposal: a commercially available hybrid computer-human based system. The approach allows a radiologist to generate a ticket request and instantly message clinicians on the system while reading an exam. When put to the test, the approach freed up significant time for radiologists and saved more than $100 per ticket based on time saved.

A radiologist can initiate a ticket for a specific issue such as a request to speak with the referrer, technologist and request for 3D imaging, among other needs. The ask enters a digital cue managed by an off-site reading room coordinator who can also see what the radiologist is working on to determine the best resource for the job. When the task is complete, the ticket is closed.

Moore and co-investigators analyzed nearly 15,000 tickets placed over six months, looking at the types of requests and turnaround times. The majority of tickets (76%) were to speak with the referring clinician over the phone. Tickets were resolved in a mean time of 35.5 minutes.

A survey of radiologists who used the hybrid tool revealed that 90% could interpret a new imaging exam rather than wait to communicate the results from the previous study, compared to 50% before the tool was implemented. Similarly, 87.5% of radiologists said they could read more studies after the communication tool was put into place.

“By allowing the reading room coordinator to do the ‘leg work’ the radiologist is able to do their primary job of image interpretation, potentially leading to improved job satisfaction and decreased burnout,” the researchers noted.

What’s more, the time saved could have a significant impact on the bottom line. Cost analysis showed savings of up to $101.12 per ticket, potentially saving a department money while also decreasing radiologist dissatisfaction.

“Clearly, the system has many potential systemwide benefits," the authors wrote.