Specialists outside of radiology—cardiologists and vascular surgeons, for instance—have started interpreting more and more lower extremity venous duplex ultrasound (LEVDU) examinations in the last few decades. However, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, radiologists still interpret more LEVDU examinations that occur over the weekend than nonradiologists.
Using Medicare Part B data, the authors studied more than 760,000 LEVDU examinations performed from 2011 to 2015. Fifty-eight percent of those examinations were interpreted by radiologists, while the remaining 42 percent were interpreted by nonradiologists.
Overall, radiologists interpreted 75 percent of weekend LEVDU examinations, leaving 25 percent to nonradiologists. The authors also found that 57 percent of LEVDU examinations interpreted by radiologists took place in an inpatient or emergency department setting. Meanwhile, 70 percent of LEVDU examinations interpreted by nonradiologists took place in an outpatient or private office setting. In addition, 17 percent of the examinations interpreted by radiologists were for patients with comorbidities, compared to 15 percent of examinations interpreted by nonradiologists.
“Although previous reports have explored interspecialty differences in the total volume of specific imaging services, little is known regarding the variation in the timing and sites of service, as well as the complexity of patients served by those different specialty groups,” wrote author Ravi V. Gottumukkala, MD, department of radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues. “Our analysis thus uncovers new insights into previously described interspecialty market share differences in LEVDU interpretation.”
The difference in weekend interpretations, Gottumukkala and colleagues noted, goes against the common viewpoint that radiologists only work “nine to five” and are always free of work on Saturdays and Sundays.
“These findings are concordant with widely recognized efforts by radiology departments to increase after-hours coverage,” the authors wrote. “Furthermore, they undermine the traditional stereotypical notion that radiologists function solely during business hours and leave after-hours care responsibilities to nonradiologist providers. Rather, our data suggest that patients who require time-sensitive diagnostic imaging outside of business hours are often able to receive it largely because of the services radiology departments provide.”