Women underrepresented in interventional radiology, provide care comparable to men

Just 8% of interventional radiologists (IRs) in the United States are women, according to new findings published in the American Journal of Roentgenology. Women IRs, however, display an interventional case composition, procedural complexity and patient complexity comparable to men.

“Greater diversity within the interventional radiology workforce could facilitate better subspecialty care of an increasingly diverse U.S. patient population because work-force diversity can lead to improvements in patient access, patient-provider communication and patient satisfaction,” wrote lead author Andrew B. Rosenkrantz, MD, MPA, NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues. “Diverse and heterogeneous organizations, for example, are better able to match patient and customer needs, implement practice innovations, and ultimately achieve higher levels of service and patient experience.”

Rosenkrantz and colleagues explored public-use CMS data from 2016 detailing all Medicare Part B noninstitutional line item claims for identified IRs. Overall, 8.2% IRs were women. The percentage of women IRs was “slightly greater” when focusing on academic IRs, IRs in their first nine years of practice and IRs belonging to larger practices. Also, while the percentage of women IRs was lowest in the Midwest (7.2%), it was the highest in the West and Northeast (9.2% each).  

The authors noted that their own findings reflect observations made in prior studies—and represent a potential red flag for patient care.

“The greater representation of women in larger practices and academic practices, for example, matches recent observations about the radiology workforce at large, particularly as it pertains to diagnostic radiologists,” they wrote. “The particularly marked geographic heterogeneity with broad regions showing very low female representation also parallels that seen in radiology more broadly. This underrepresentation of female IRs may contribute to disparities in patient care in light of research showing a favorable impact of physician workforce gender diversity on the quality of patient care.”

The higher percentage of women among early-career IRs, however, “suggests that the specialty's increased commitment to gender diversity may finally be bearing fruit.”

Diving deeper into the data, Rosenkrantz et al. observed that women IRs “spent slightly lower percentages of their professional effort” rendering invasive services and noninvasive diagnostic imaging services. On the other hand, women IRs spend a “considerably higher percentage of their professional work effort” evaluating and managing clinical visits. And men and women had “similar distributions of services across a spectrum of procedural categories,” including venous access and hemodialysis access.

There were also similarities in the distributions of low-, mid- and high-complexity procedural services among men and women IRs. And “similar mixes of mean patient complexity based on hierarchic condition category scores” were observed.

The team concluded that female IRs provide key contributions to the practice of interventional radiology, suggesting its research “may help counter prevailing biases within this male-dominated specialty about women.”