Blog Post

Should you outsource after-hours and weekend radiology shifts?

May 26, 2017

    It's 2 a.m. A patient rushes into the emergency department with what appears to be appendicitis and is in need of an urgent CT scan. Does an on-site radiologist read the exam—or should it go to a remote teleradiologist?

    After-hours radiologist coverage is an evergreen challenge for imaging leaders. Many radiology programs struggle to ensure that enough radiologists are available to provide timely reads, without having physicians sitting idly on night and weekend shifts. We're not surprised that our members are asking us about after-hours coverage, mainly because:

    • After-hours shifts are difficult to staff and manage since they're burdensome for physicians, but outsourcing raises quality concerns for imaging leaders.
    • Providing coverage for after-hours shifts is expensive, and there is not yet a consensus regarding radiologist compensation.
    • Data sharing enables radiologists to read remotely, opening the door to new approaches to manage after-hours staffing.

    With over 90% of late-night reads being conducted remotely and less than 10% requiring supervision, many hospitals are considering whether to keep these services in-house, or to outsource after-hours shift coverage.

    Below are some questions that our members have asked about providing coverage for after-hours and weekend shifts. Read on to better understand cost, quality, and productivity considerations for whether you should keep after-hours coverage in-house or outsource these services.

    Member question: How are organizations structuring their internal after-hours radiology team?

    Leveraging IT to maximize radiologist workforce: Leaders at Sunshine Radiology, an independent radiology group in Florida, were preparing to hire additional radiologists to meet contractual agreements for productivity and overnight coverage needs for their hospital partners. But after realizing that disparate IT infrastructure was compromising efficiency and quality, they deployed a universal viewer to allow physicians to read images across the system.

    By using a unified system workstation, Sunshine Radiology was able to leverage a single radiologist to provide coverage for overnight shifts across its facilities, eliminating the need for an additional radiologist. Now Sunshine staffs a single physician to provide after-hours reads for nine hospitals.

    Sunshine Radiology


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