SIIM: Can Microsoft Teams lessen radiologist interruptions?

2020 04 16 18 17 3383 Radiologist Ct Scan Brain Tumor 400

AUSTIN, TX - Asynchronous forms of communication such as Microsoft Teams are much less disruptive to radiologists than phone calls or in-person visits, according to a talk delivered at the annual Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) meeting.

After observing 19 radiologists and analyzing their interruptions over a 90-minute period, a research team from Georgetown University School of Medicine led by medical student Daniel Weitz found that interruptions caused by a Teams message were shorter and less severe.

"Asynchronous interruptions are shorter and are far less likely to occur during cases," Weitz said in his talk. "Therefore, this interruption method is less likely to cause concentration impairment when reviewing critical image findings."

Traditionally, radiologists have been interrupted through synchronous communication methods such as phone calls and in-person visits. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, asynchronous communication messaging techniques were increasingly used, according to Weitz.

"Asynchronous communication gives the radiologist more control over the timing of the interruption when reviewing critical findings," Weitz said.

The researchers sought to test their hypothesis that interruptions via asynchronous methods such as Teams would be less disruptive to radiologists. They observed 19 radiologists --10 residents and nine attendings -- for 90 minutes across three different reading rooms.

In addition to noting the timing and method of the interruptions to radiologists' workflow, the researchers also calculated the number of severe interruptions, which were defined as causing radiologists to switch the current patient's images and/or leave their desk.

There were 149 interruptions -- 5.5 per hour -- that lasted an average of 114.7 seconds. Of these, 40.3% were in-person visits, 24.8% were phone calls, 18.8% were Teams messages, and 16.1% were categorized as other.

The Teams messages were a lot less disruptive to the radiologists.

Interruptions to radiologists by type
Measure Phone Person Teams
Average interruption length (seconds) 142.2 112.3 62.7
Interruptions during case 100% 86.2% 54.2%
Severe interruptions during case 21.4% 48.2% 11.4%

In comparison with a previous study conducted at Georgetown in 2016, the average interruption length dropped from 144 seconds to 114.7 seconds. That's due to the Teams messages having a much shorter interruption time, according to Weitz.

Weitz predicts that this trend will continue as more providers get used to using asynchronous communication methods such as Teams.

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