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Three Ways Remote Breast Radiologists Help Improve Your Practice

Breast Imaging facilities across the nation are under pressure as service demands increase amidst a shortage of radiologists.

The ACR job board is a testament, with over 1,500 active breast radiologist job listings, a number expected to remain on the rise due to predicted retirement rates. Of the 20,970 radiologists engaged in active patient care, 82% are aged 45 and over, while 53% are aged 55 and over. Factor in radiologist burnout, which is particularly high amongst breast radiologists, and practices are faced with a unique workforce condition to staff departments and continue delivering vital care to patients.

One solution proving to address radiologist shortages without sacrificing the quality of care is utilizing remote fellowship-trained breast radiologists. While previously identified with outsourcing evening/night work, teleradiology has expanded into a much more comprehensive workflow solution that enables practices to access highly skilled radiologists that operate as an extension of their in-house team. On-site breast radiologists remain crucial for many departments, but internalizing remote readers to offset volume burden can improve turnaround times, reduce callbacks, and guarantee subspecialty interpretations.

Interested in learning how DocPanel can connect you with fellowship-trained Breast Radiologists? Send us a note here and we’ll set up a time chat.

Improved TAT

As we begin to recover from pandemic-related screening dips, practices are experiencing a spike in volumes. Opportunities to extend hours are fruitful but coverage gaps are causing delays in turnaround time. Having remote readers to help tackle the low-priority screening exams frees up valuable time for in-house radiologists to focus on diagnostic studies and patient follow-up.

“One huge benefit that I experience in reading remotely for my clients is that, because I’m not tied to any specific time during the day, I’m able to dedicate my evenings to providing coverage,” explains Dr. Geraldine Liao, Breast Imaging Specialist and DocPanel Radiologist. “I have one client who does screening mammograms at their practice late into the evening, so many of the cases I receive are from same-day appointments that happened around 7:30 PM or 8:00 PM. Normally, these screens would probably be read the next morning. I’m able to read them that evening.”

Dr. Liao adds that this is also helpful for her East Coast clients, as she is located on the West Coast.

“Other clients may have weeks of backlog, which can be stressful to in-house readers, even if they are not responsible for them. Seeing a huge list creates a stressful environment not just for radiologists, but also for the rest of the staff,” says Dr. Liao. “When you know that you have a specialty fellowship-trained radiologist helping to handle the volume, workflow optimization naturally follows.”


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Reduced Callbacks

While there is some debate around recall rates, it’s widely accepted and anticipated that around 10% of screened women will receive a callback. Ensuring interpretive skills and technical quality are up to the highest standard can help practices stay within this window, without missing cancers.

“Through the DocPanel platform, I’m able to provide more than just reads. I can provide direct feedback to technologists to improve quality and provide protocol optimization and implementation support, which increases overall efficiency helping to improve technical recall rates and reduce callbacks,” says Dr. Liao.

Studies have also shown that recall rates improve with batch reading compared to reading with interrupted interpretation.

“Oftentimes, and especially at small clinics, practices perform screening and diagnostic exams at the same time throughout the day. But there’s no dedicated shift for one person to tackle the list for each type of study. That interruption in flow can disrupt the sensitivity for reading screening studies. This can ultimately lead to an increase in callbacks,” says Dr. Liao

With additional support from subspecialty remote readers, facilities can incorporate batch reading into their workflow.

Subspecialized Interpretations

As facilities deal with staffing shortages, some are turning to non-fellowship trained radiologists for support. But this could jeopardize accuracy and can have huge consequences on patient outcomes.

“While there is indeed a shortage of fellowship-trained breast radiologists who are available for full-time in-house positions, there are many who can still dedicate a substantial breadth of coverage when they can do so remotely from home. “ says Dr. Liao. “Connecting with specialists who have a fellowship training alleviates the concern that you may have a general radiologist without substantial experience in breast imaging reading exams and potentially misinterpreting studies.”

In a session at the Society of Breast Imaging/American College of Radiology symposium last month, Dr. Jay Parikh noted that “efforts to prevent physician burnout should focus more on redesigning work processes rather than redesigning physicians”. Reading remotely offers a solution to widen the reach of subspecialized care while supporting a healthy lifestyle for radiologists. MQSA certification of remote monitors, fast and secure PACS integrations, and physician satisfaction come together in the remote reading world and, ultimately, help ensure an accurate diagnosis for patients while overcoming delays in care.

Every state in the US is looking for breast radiologists, and though it is often seen as a challenge it also presents an opportunity. Facilities can benefit from a new remote reading model that offers a fresh way to enhance workflows, better utilize subspecialized expertise, and tackle factors that lead to burnout.

Interested in learning how DocPanel can connect you with fellowship-trained Breast Radiologists? Send us a note here and we’ll set up a time chat.

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