9 ways to ease the radiologist workforce shortage

Radiology is experiencing a workforce shortage, but there are at least 9 ways to mitigate it, according to a clinical perspective published April 3 in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

Lead author James Rawson, MD, of Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston and colleagues noted that, as the "current radiology landscape has an imbalance between the rising demand for radiology services and the national radiologist workforce available," it's crucial to implement creative strategies to address the workforce shortage issue.

"Rather than working longer and/or faster, there are ways for radiologists to work smarter," it noted. "By creating an inventory of potential solutions, practices can choose the potential mechanism(s) to address the workforce shortage that best fit their needs and local environment."

In their perspective, Rawson and colleagues listed at least nine ideas radiology departments can consider, including the following:

  1. Tap into the pool of retired radiologists. "Job-sharing, part-time positions, per diem work, and phased retirements are a few models to allow senior radiologists to continue to participate in providing clinical care," the group noted.
  2. Expand use of part-time radiologists. "An estimated 16% of the radiology workforce is part-time," Rawson's team wrote. "[If] only a third of part-time radiologists worked an additional day per month, then this would result in the equivalent of 87 additional radiologists nationally."
  3. Consider seasonal contracts. "To the extent that [seasonal] fluctuations are predictable in the local market, the radiology workforce could be temporarily expanded during times with anticipated increased volumes (e.g., October Breast Cancer Awareness Month)," the authors noted.
  4. Make use of fellowship trainees. "Most radiology residents complete a fellowship, which provides a potential workforce of approximately 1,000 radiologists who could work part-time, if allowed by their training program," they wrote.
  5. Consider reading room assistants -- and even nonphysician providers. "Reading room coordinators or assistants can provide administrative support to the radiology reading room workflow," the investigators explained. "[And] radiology extenders such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, advanced sonographers, 'super techs,' and registered radiologist assistants have long been discussed as potential solutions to radiologist workforce shortages … [although] there are understandable concerns with these models."
  6. Check out internal moonlighting. "Some practices offer internal moonlighting to allow their group's radiologists to work in the evening or on weekends," Rawson's group noted. "Payment for the moonlighter varies but may be per shift, per RVUs, or per case."
  7. Reduce low-value imaging. "Reducing some low-value examinations is clearly not a short-term solution, but some low-value imaging can be reduced by building standard recommendations into report macros," the team wrote.
  8. Create hybrid workflow and remote work models. "With the loss of reading room interruptions … some radiologists working remotely from home may be more productive than their on-site colleagues, creating an increased effective workforce," Rawson and colleagues wrote.
  9. Take care of ergonomics. "Well-designed ergonomics in the reading room can reduce musculoskeletal and repetitive strain injuries and the resultant loss of productive radiologist work," they explained.

Analyzing the radiology department's workflow can help mitigate the radiologist workforce shortage, according to Rawson's group.

"Radiologists' future work schedules may resemble a patchwork quilt rather than the structured one-size-fits-all work assignments of the past," it concluded.

The complete paper can be found here.

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