After the shift and necessity to work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the question remains: Can radiologists work from home? The answer is a resounding yes. Thanks to smart, remote radiology reporting systems like PACS, RIS/PACS, and teleradiology software, radiologists can effectively work from home. It’s clearer than ever that remote radiology has proven to improve radiologists’ productivity and reduce costs for organizations.
The push towards remote radiology
While radiologists have been practicing remote radiology since at least the late 90s, a big push to remote radiology exploded due to safety and social distancing guidelines related to COVID-19. To understand how many practices shifted to teleradiology, Mohammed Imran Quraishi, MD, assistant professor of radiology at the University of Tennessee and his colleagues sent a survey to 290 respondents.
Based on the 174 responses they received, the authors saw a jump in the proportion of sites installing home workstations and switching normal daytime shifts to internal teleradiology (73.6%). From decreased stress levels and improved or no change in turnaround times, the respondents saw plenty of merit to remote reading. Over half of the respondents (55.9%) said they saw enough benefit from their experience that they plan to continue a similar workflow post-COVID.
Advantages of remote radiology
What exactly are the other advantages of remote medical imaging? Here are a few more, from a radiologist’s perspective.
Better work-life balance
|A radiologist’s cumulative commute time is significantly reduced when they’re able to work from home more often. The option to perform remote radiology can benefit their long-term mental and physical well-being, as well as their productivity.
The increased flexibility when reading remotely opens up more time for social activities, which can improve work-life balance.
Ability to select a subspecialty
|Many imaging centers ask their radiologists to be generalists. However, as a teleradiologist, there’s greater possibility to focus on a subspecialty.
According to Michael Yuz, MD, an executive radiologist with USARAD, although “you might be expected to be knowledgeable in all areas, there are opportunities to subspecialize…You also have the opportunity to stop in and read for hospital radiologists who don’t have the experience in your area of expertise.”
Ability to select partners
|Remote radiology allows radiologists to be more selective about the imaging centers and hospitals they work for. Whether you’d like to work with a small or large organization, the choice is yours.|
Reduced dependence on external/contracted readings
|With the shift to internal teleradiology, there’s less need to rely on external or contracted readings. However, it’s important to note that many practices decreased external teleradiology dependence due to reports of lower case volumes across the country from reduction of non-essential cases.|
Demand for remote radiology work will likely continue to rise, especially considering these advantages. Artificial intelligence (AI) will be pivotal in balancing radiologists’ workloads and boosting their productivity – a vendor neutral archive with AI capabilities is especially key as the remote radiology trend booms.
How radiology departments benefit from remote radiology
Improve staff productivity
Allowing radiologists to work from home (which eliminates the need to commute) opens the possibility of creating additional work hours without adding to the length of the workday. Plus, reading remotely allows radiologists to read in an uninterrupted fashion which can increase overall productivity.
Improve staffing and coverage
Remote radiology provides better coverage for after-hours, holidays, and weekends. “Telecommuting provides radiologists the opportunity to save travel time in going back and forth to work and allows radiologists to spend more time at home,” Alexander Norbash, MD, Department of Radiology, UCSD said.
With the option to do remote reading, radiologists may be less reluctant to take a late shift while at home. “Telecommuting could also be an attractive perk for individuals with childcare responsibilities, notably part-time women radiologists, as long as they are not overloaded at home.”
Improve staff morale (and reduce burnout)
When speaking of his faculty and their experience with remote radiology, Michael Recht, MD, Department of Radiology, NYU Langone said “They appreciated the increased autonomy and flexible working hours and felt that it improved work-life balance.”
With 232 radiologists in total, Recht said there’s no need to have all of them on-site every day. “Allowing each to read from home 1 or 2 days per week allows for improved faculty morale with no negative effects on the value radiologists bring to our patients or referring physicians,” Recht added.
The essentials for effective remote radiology reporting
Web-based cloud PACS
A cloud PACS is one of the must-haves to ensure smooth remote radiology reporting. With 99.9% guaranteed uptime and enhanced security, radiologists can work from home without having to worry about experiencing downtime. Since images are rendered at the cloud server and streamed to your workstation, your images should load quickly.
Fast internet connection
A fast, secure internet connection is imperative for reading images from home according to the authors of this article. “For our system, an 80-Mbps connection over the VPN gives close to in-house results. Speeds as low as 30–40 Mbps are acceptable, though lag occurs. Speeds of 200 Mbps and greater afford a seamless experience,” the authors mentioned.
IT support and self-help resources
When technical problems arise, remote radiologists will need support – either from their PACS admin or vendor’s support team. Sometimes there are minor issues that a radiologist can resolve on their own. It’d be a smart idea to prepare how-to guides to walk radiologists through these problems. Better yet, a PACS vendor that offers a robust library of self-help resources should be helpful in guiding radiologists on how to solve common issues independently.
As remote radiology becomes more common, radiologists will be reading from home day in and out. Proper ergonomics and a comfortable office set-up at home is essential for a radiologist’s comfort and health.
Health issues related to poor ergonomics can result in workplace injuries and loss of productivity. Performing similar tasks repetitively and working in an awkward body posture are some of the known risk factors that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons.
This matters because work-related MSDs are one of the most reported causes of lost time at work. It’s important to ensure radiologists have ergonomic office furniture for greater comfort, productivity, and to reduce the number and severity of work-related MSDs.
Get started with remote medical imaging
This flexible work arrangement paves the way for a healthier work-life balance for radiologists, while departments and imaging facilities may find they are less dependent on external readings.
Remote radiology reporting systems and technology are essential for fast and secure reading from home. Get in touch with us today to learn how we’re ready to help you achieve that.