How technologists can save radiologists valuable time

Technologists can provide significant value by assigning protocols for certain CT and MRI examinations, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology. This gives radiologists more time to complete other key tasks.

“At our institution, most CT and MRI protocols are completed by trainees (residents and fellows),” wrote Daniel I. Glazer, MD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues. “This responsibility for solo non-interpretive tasks and the associated frequent interruptions contribute to decreased workplace satisfaction and a feeling of diminished value. Besides subjectively worsening trainee experiences, interruptions have also been found to diminish trainee accuracy.”

To see if the responsibility of assigning protocols could be shifted from radiology trainees to technologists, Glazer et al. tasked two CT technologists and two MRI technologists with the task for a 15-week study period. The chosen technologists all received special training and worked with assistance from a detailed protocol mapping document. Only abdominal CT and MRI examinations were included in this study.

Overall, CT technologists assigned 22 protocols per hour, and MRI technologists assigned 19 per hour. Their efforts made up 33.9% of all CT examinations and 23.8% of MRI examinations during the study period. There were just three reports for inaccurate CT protocols and five for inaccurate MRI protocols.

In addition, the authors noted, no patients had to be brought back for repeat imaging and a random review of 80 technologist-assigned protocols found no errors. Due to the success of their pilot study, Glazer and colleagues noted that they have “expanded technologist CT and MRI protocol assignment to additional divisions.”

These findings suggest that technologists could potentially take over assigning such protocols, freeing up radiologists so that they can address other tasks.

“Radiologists are frequently interrupted throughout the workday, and actual image interpretation accounts for less than 40% of radiologist time,” the authors wrote. “Noninterpretive efforts can add substantial value to patient care, and the American College of Radiology has proposed the Imaging 3.0 initiative to highlight all the ways in which radiologists contribute to patient care beyond imaging interpretation. By reducing the amount of time radiologists spend on rendering imaging protocols in our practice, we could potentially increase time spent on other portions of the imaging value chain.”

The authors did note that, since the study was performed at an academic medical center, these results “may not be generalizable to other practice settings.” Also, they wrote, it is possible that protocols related to other modalities could prove more difficult for technologists to assign.