Survive the Looming Radiologist Physician Shortage with More Efficient Radiology Workflows


Morgan Freeman once said, “As you grow in this business, you learn how to do more with less.” While radiologists are not actors, the same can be said for the growth of radiology in the era of value-based care. With the number of imaging studies on the rise, and the added pressure of increased participation in patient care, radiologists are finding that they have more work to do, without the benefit of additional resources.

To add fuel to the fire, many indicators point to a looming shortage of radiologists that will continue into the foreseeable future. Demand for new radiologists is already outstripping supply, the job market for radiologists is set to grow by 16% in 2016, with 2,223 new job openings for approximately 1,200 candidates. The gap is predicted to grow through the next decade. Physician job placement service Merritt Hawkins & Associates anticipates shortages in the tens of thousands by 2025.

Additionally, the general population is aging, in the next decade the population of those over 65 will increase by 41%. Elderly patients tend to be heavier consumers of medical care, especially diagnostic testing. This is true of Radiologists, too. Merritt Hawkins estimates that 50% of radiologists are 55 and older. Many are nearing retirement age, and some are choosing to retire early.

So how can a radiology department to survive and even thrive with these new constraints? The solution to this problem is clear; create a more efficient workflow.

Radiology Departments Can Do More with Less

Many health systems are ramping up efforts to encourage more students to pursue a career in radiology, which could reduce the severity of the radiologist shortage; however, even if these efforts alleviate the shortage, radiologists will still be challenged by the increasing complexity of imaging studies, growing pressure to become active participants in patient care and escalating importance of defining and measuring quality metrics. One way to address the shortage and its associated challenges is to adopt more efficient radiology workflows. Here are three ways to increase efficiency:

1. Automate communication: Automating tasks like setting reminders and delivering results can replace manual processes and help ensure that communication between different departments or providers is completed and tracked. A solution that can take on these types of communication tasks in conjunction with intelligent, dynamic case assignment can help radiology departments become more consistent and proactive.

2. Provide a single access point for contextually relevant data. Radiologists want to quickly access relevant patient history that will help them make better-informed decisions, but don’t want to constantly switch between applications or dig through mountains of data. They need a solution that lets them access this data easily from the EMR and lets them visualize it directly at the point of care.

3. Monitor performance and eliminate bottlenecks. Identifying bottlenecks in the workflow creates opportunities to address them and manage radiology departments using pertinent data. Analytics help point out opportunities to streamline or automate processes.

The increased demand for radiologists comes at the end of a 4-year surplus in the field. Demand and supply will continue to ebb and flow, somewhere between the most optimistic and most dire projections. But regardless of how the shortage impacts your organization, more efficient workflows are undeniably a net positive for your department, your health system and your patients.

See how Conserus Workflow Intelligence™ can help reduce radiology turnaround times through improved communication and prioritization with this case study and how Conserus Imaging Fellow can help bring the right information at the right time to radiologists. Or contact Change Healthcare today to learn more about the Conserus suite.

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