Noninterpretative duties gobble more than half of the work day

The first prospective study to examine activities hospital-based radiologists perform showed imagers spend 36.4 percent of their time on image interpretation. The study, published in the July issue of Journal of American College of Radiology, showed frequent interruptions and calculated total clinical productivity at 87.7 percent.

Deljit Dhanoa, MD, MBA, from the department of radiology at University of British Columbia in Canada, and colleagues sought to characterize and quantify activities beyond image interpretation including value-based interactions with allied health professionals.

Dhanoa et al designed a one-month observational analysis of radiologists at one academic hospital and two community-based hospitals in the Greater Vancouver area. Physicians were observed over 20 consecutive working days in October and November 2012.

The researchers characterized interruptions as simple, which do not force the physician to switch from one activity to another, and break-in-task, a greater than 10 seconds event that causes the physician to switch tasks.

Most often performed activities and the proportion of time allocated were:

  • Image interpretation-36.4 percent;
  • Preparation and monitoring of studies-12.7 percent; and
  • Image-guided procedures-10.9 percent.

“Regarding the noninterpretative work radiologists perform, a significant portion is spontaneous and cannot be preplanned, and is typically manifested as an interruption requiring the radiologist to draw attention away from the task at hand.”

Noninterpretative activities included communication with the referring physician and “report chasing,” or confirming patient status and locating previous exams.

The researchers characterized radiologists’ work as highly fragmented due to frequent interruptions, which occur, on average, six times an hour. Many of these interruptions are direct image-related issues, influence patient care and cannot be performed by an off-site or nonradiologist image interpreter, according to Dhanoa et al.

The study moves beyond the conventional relative value unit characterization of productivity and offers a template for describing the function and value provided by an on-site radiologist, the researchers concluded.