COVID-19 pandemic forced big changes in radiology workflows

By Amerigo Allegretto, staff writer

May 25, 2021 -- The COVID-19 pandemic forced major changes in radiology workflow, but the past year also had some silver linings and lessons for the future, according to speakers in a May 24 session at the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) annual meeting.

In a panel discussion, radiology directors and vendor executives talked about the challenges their respective workplaces endured throughout the pandemic, polling members in the SIIM audience on what they also faced while looking toward the future.

"I'm so happy to see things are returning back to normal," said panelist Sylvia Devlin, IT manager at the Radiology Clinical Operations and eRadiology Center at Johns Hopkins Medicine. "I think 2021 and beyond is going to be so much better."

Other panelists for the session included Tim Masters, director of organizational readiness and serviceability at GE Healthcare, and Charlene Tomaselli, a consultant and former director of medical imaging information technology at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The pandemic created challenges for radiology professionals that included communication challenges, bandwidth for high-speed internet, and working virtually. Radiologists who were polled for the panel discussion also said they experienced project delays and time-consuming tasks such as disposing of old x-ray films and migrating historical data to digital.

Masters said that his team was 40% more effective when working virtually. However, he also said one drawback of teleworking was losing personal contact with other team members.

"A lot of people struggled with that," he said. "We had a lot of Friday afternoon happy hours over Teams or Zoom."

Masters experienced a position change at GE during the pandemic, from a product manager with no direct report to a directorial role with 13 direct reports. He said skills he learned through the change included empathy.

"It was a shock to the system to say the least," he said. "It's learning that new skill of listening, putting yourself in employees' shoes, and leading by example. We all have those bad days, but you can't go in with an attitude. You have to keep focus on the mission that day and put on a strong face for your team."

However, the SIIM panelists also highlighted some of the silver linings of the pandemic, one of which was how companies pivoted their operations to creating better masks, ventilators, and hand sanitizer, among other items, to help people protect themselves from the coronavirus.

"It was incredible to see ingenuity from automobile companies completely pivoting from their standard practice of car manufacturing to making ventilators, or distilleries and breweries that moved from their normal operations to making hand sanitizer," Devlin stated.

Devlin also said it was great to see healthcare workers being celebrated as heroes.

"Although doctors and nurses got a lot of the accolades, those of us who came in to support were lauded as heroes also," she said.

Panelists told that the lessons they learned managing their operations during the challenging times of the pandemic will carry over into the future.

"I think that 2020 was exceptionally steep and really tested my managerial skills. I do feel stronger for it," Devlin said.

That feeling was echoed by Tomaselli of Johns Hopkins.

"Not being stuck in worry and having faith and confidence are lessons that we should be able to do through lots of ups and downs that are more normal," she added.

Copyright © 2021

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