5 tips to reduce phone interruptions during radiology reporting

As email, text alerts and other modern forms of communication become the norm, radiology departments cite phone calls as a frequent source of interruptions in radiology reporting rooms. These interruptions may increase discrepancy chances by up to 12 percent.

Recent research published online March 5 in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology provided five recommendations to educate referrers to eliminate unnecessary phone calls to radiology departments.

“Interruptions create a causal cycle that compounds inefficiency in radiology, the central hub of many care pathways, and introduces known risks in interpretative error rates,” wrote corresponding author Christopher Watura, MBChB, with the imaging department of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, and colleagues.

Researchers performed a five-day observational study across two large teaching hospital reporting rooms in London. Radiologists recorded a total of 288 calls between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Of the calls, 92 percent interrupted reporting. Reasons for the calls are listed below:

  • 48 percent to have a request vetted.
  • 17 percent to ask for a study to be reported.
  • 17 percent were classified as “other.”
  • 7 percent to discuss choice of study
  • 6 percent to review a report.
  • 3 percent were a wrong number.
  • 2 percent returned a bleep.
  • 1 percent requested further explanation in addition to the electronic request form.

“This suggests, however, that the full benefits of an electronic system are not yet being realized, and radiologists and referrers remain over-reliant on and acceptant of telephone interruptions for functional workflow. Most were from junior doctors with poor understanding of the work flows to and from imaging,” wrote Watura et al.

Watura and colleagues cited a separate study that determined non-CT-related questions were the the most common reasons for inappropriate calls to a CT reporting room. That group educated emergency department staff and reduced calls by 28 percent.

The U.K. authors provided five recommendations to change habitual unnecessary reporting. They are:

  1. Define protected activities during which interruptions are not permitted.
  2. Streamline radiologists’ and referrers’ workflow within the electronic requesting and vetting process, other than in exceptional circumstances.
  3. Establish an electronic instant alert system for issuing critical reports and a review of report priority triaging to reduce calls for reports. Many calls for reports are due to an outpatient reporting backlog (not recorded) that would be ameliorated by faster reporting turnaround times.
  4. Formalize a duty radiologist timetable to tackle non-reporting responsibilities.
  5. Create referrer induction and education on workflows in imaging.