Radiologists, meet your new best friends: Reading room coordinators

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Implementing a reading room coordinator can improve radiologist satisfaction and help battle potential feelings of burnout, according to a recent case study published by the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

The authors opened their study by describing burnout as “a critical issue” and explaining why the situation is worse now than in the past.

“Radiologists practice in busy environments, with ever-increasing clinical volumes, as well as pressures to perform a growing array of noninterpretive, value-added activities such as consultations or provider-driven customized reporting,” wrote lead author Andrew B. Rosenkrantz, MD, MPA, department of radiology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues.

“Moreover, as a result of the national trend toward healthcare system integration and consolidation, radiologists are finding themselves in larger practices and potentially more likely to be geographically remote from their colleagues and referring physicians. Enlisting ancillary personnel to assist radiologists in phone calls and other administrative tasks may provide the kind of support needed to address such issues.”

To help combat burnout, the authors implemented a reading room coordinator service at a large urban academic medical center. Research showed that faculty was concerned about the time radiologists are required to spend on the phone each day, whether they are calling a technologist or tracking down a referring physician for more information.

A reading room coordinator, the authors believed, could help cut down on this stress and, by improving satisfaction within the reading room, play a role in reducing burnout among radiologists.

The reading room coordinators worked traditional daytime hours at first, but moved to working 24-7-365. They were open to helping any radiologist with any request. Calls to reading rooms were rerouted so that coordinators would answer the phone and not the radiologists.

“The coordinators thus served as the department’s first point of contact in answering calls from referring physicians, directing these calls, along with the relevant patient and examination information, to the appropriate radiologist or reading room,” the authors wrote.

Overall, the coordinators proved they could take a significant amount of work off radiologists’ plates. In the first month of implementation, October 2015, the new position handled 55 requests for specialists. By May 2017, they were taking on more than 2,800 requests. More than 45 percent of the requests were associated with outpatient care, more than 30 percent were associated with emergency department care and more than 24 percent were associated with inpatient care.

“The service has achieved increasing utilization in our department and is now being applied broadly across radiologist and patient locations, saving substantial collective radiologist time throughout our enterprise,” the authors wrote. “Given the impact to improve radiologists’ workplace satisfaction and productivity, other radiology practices are encouraged to implement similar systems tailored to their local environments.”