How radiologists can minimize distractions, reduce burnout and become more efficient

Radiologists are burned out—that’s no secret. Minimizing distractions and organizing time can help radiologists become more efficient and reduce those symptoms of burnout, according to a recent study published in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology.

“By increasing one's efficiency both at and away from the reading station radiologists may be able to increase their job satisfaction by decreasing the proportion of their time spent dealing with tedium and thereby allowing them to spend more time on the aspects of their jobs that they find to be fulfilling,” wrote first author Creighton Lewis, MD, of the University of Colorado in Aurora, and colleagues.

Below are areas radiologists can focus on to reduce distractions. 

Minimize phone calls

Hiring a physician extender or “reading room assistant” to answer common questions can reduce repetitive phone call interruptions. Additionally, Lewis et al. suggested educating referring physicians or radiologists expected to read fewer studies as potential options for reducing error in the reading room.

Cut out emails

“Implementing a system to deal with emails immediately and converting them into actionable items can increase efficiency and decrease stress—if one has dozens, hundreds, or possibly thousands of emails percolating in one's Inbox then it is a low-level constant stressor to parse this list several times per day and determine anew which messages require immediate action,” the authors wrote.

One such system, created by author David Allen, includes the five D’s for handling emails: Delete items you don’t need, do tasks immediately if they can be done in under two minutes, delegate work; deposit emails in an accessible way and defer to an item later if it’s going to take more than a couple of minutes. 

Internet distractions

Minimize “near-constant” interruptions from text messages, social media notifications phone calls and emails by budgeting time specifically for checking such distractions. Even leaving the phone in a bag or on “do-not-disturb” can help, the authors wrote.

Additional ways to optimize time

Lewis and colleagues suggested taking short, scheduled breaks to respond to texts or to make a phone call can increase productivity performing a certain task in the long-run.

When it comes to radiology reports, structured reporting with customized templates can add to efficiency. Concise reporting can eliminate irrelevant clinical details and further improve efficiency, according to Lewis and colleagues.