A little more than a year ago, I left my full partnership position at a successful radiology practice for a teleradiology job with vRad, a MEDNAX company. I was a bit nervous making such a life-changing decision, but I knew I needed a change. Partnership had been a life goal since med school, but now I had different priorities. I had kids, new interests. Making the move allowed me to focus more on me and my family while still doing the work that I love.
After a year with vRad, I’ve been shocked at how much better the job has turned out and I can’t see ever going back to a conventional practice. These are four reasons—though I could easily list many more—I’m glad I made the move.
1. A pay raise
Admittedly, my main reservation moving to teleradiology was the pay. I think that’s true for many radiologists. But I actually ended up with a substantial pay raise. Reflecting on the past year, a few important factors made this possible.
In a traditional practice, revenue is shared among partners and associates. Unfortunately, the burden often falls on a few high-performers to make up for low-volume producers. At vRad, whatever I read determines how much I make. I simply sit down and get a stream of cases that I can read as quickly or as slowly as I like.
Also, I am more productive now than ever before―freed of the distractions and inefficiencies often associated with a traditional practice setting. For example, in the last year I've never made a phone call. Yes, I talk to physicians throughout the night about emergent findings, but I don't call them. I click a button when I need to talk to “Dr. Smith” and when she’s available to talk my phone rings and the report and images pop up. Even if I've read 5 more cases and don't remember why I called the ER, it's all right there in front of me. And I didn't waste 2 seconds to make it happen.
It's hard to fathom how much more productive you can be when you've got a system that has virtually zero wasted time, virtually zero inefficiencies for the Radiologist. The only thing I'm doing at my workstation is reading scans. Period. And my income reflects this.
I don’t think high producers have historically thought about this kind of job. But, now that the technology has progressed to where you can read significantly more cases on their system, it's really enjoyable and financially very rewarding.
2. More time for my family—and for me
With vRad, my office is at home. I’m closer to my family when they need me. We can check in with one another more easily throughout the day on all matters big and small.
Of course, this doesn’t mean I can drop a case mid-study just because one of the kids knocks on the door. But I can take a break between cases whenever I need to, and I can do so without feeling a bit of guilt. When I return to my reading room, I’m back in business in a matter of seconds; I just pull up the vRad system queue and click on the next available case.
I’ve also restored a bit of sanity by eliminating a commute that used to consume as much as two-and-a-half to three hours every day. This gives me 12 to 15 hours per workweek that were previously spent uselessly staring through the windshield of my car. That’s time I get to spend with my lovely wife or my wonderful kids.
Making the switch to teleradiology has also helped me discover some extra “me time.” For example, I have a little condo in Key West, Florida, with its own reading room. As a vRad teleradiologist, I can work from any location with the right computer equipment and a high-speed internet connection. Often, the family joins me here. But other times, they have plans in Ohio that don’t include me, so I sneak away. Between my vRad shifts, I can spend time pursuing my favorite hobby: hunting among the wreckage of numerous 16th, 17th and 18th century Spanish galleons that met their fates in the reefs along the Florida Straits. That was a luxury I didn’t have working the 9-to-5 in Ohio. There just aren’t that many interesting shipwrecks to explore in the Buckeye state.
For more on Florida treasure hunting and a few pictures, check out my recent blog post.
3. It has made me a better radiologist
I heard several times that working with vRad would make be a better radiologist, but honestly I was a bit skeptical at first. It didn’t take long, however, to experience what they were talking about.
vRad’s feedback loop is hugely beneficial for all of its specialists. About 70 percent of what I do are preliminary reports, where I give the ER my interpretation of the scan in the middle of the night and early the next morning the onsite radiologist comes and reads my report and looks at the images to be sure they agree. It's a unique situation where you're getting unbiased feedback on nearly everything you do. Any blind spots—the things that maybe you don't focus on quite enough—come out really quickly.
Getting so much feedback, and from such a variety of providers, has pushed me and the quality of work to new levels. For that, I’m incredibly grateful.
4. I’m as connected with clinicians as ever
I was worried I wouldn’t get as much physician interaction as a teleradiologist—that I would feel left out or left behind—but that has not been my experience at all. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how much I’m talking to a small group of doctors on a regular basis. They tend to work the same hours that I do. I'm actually on a first name basis with a lot of ER doctors around the country. The nature of vRad ensures I encounter a variety of new clinicians as well.
Of course, all of these interactions occur remotely via vRad communications tools and technology, but I think all of radiology is headed in that direction. If we’re not doing interventional procedures, most of us don’t need to be at the radiology department to look at images anymore.
I think many radiologists have the same skepticism about teleradiology that I once did and I’m eager to share what has been a life-changing experience in hopes that other’s may benefit. If you’d like to learn more about my experience I’d be happy to speak with you. There’s a great team at vRad working with radiologists interested in exploring career options. Reach out to them and they’ll put you in touch with me.