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Tech advances intensify demands on time-poor specialists

Radiologist workloads are increasing “exponentially” as the complexity of tests and demands on time multiply, intensifying workplace pressure and compromising training, the AMA’s Radiology Specialty Group has warned.

The group told the AMA Federal Council that technological advances meant diagnostic imaging tests were producing much more data than ever before, making the task of interpretation and diagnosis far more complex and demanding.

For instance, the group said, the data produced by a computed tomography scan of an oncology patient now took between 20 and 30 minutes to interrogate, much longer than a decade ago when data sets were much smaller.

But it said hospital administrators had not kept up with such changes, and time allowances had become increasingly inadequate.

Not only were radiologists interpreting bigger and more complex data sets, but were also being required to devote an increasing amount of time to multidisciplinary meetings.

The group said it took 60 minutes to prepare for a typical one-hour meeting, but because there was no billing involved, such demands were not taken into account when assessing radiologist productivity.

“[Multidisciplinary meetings], review of previous studies, ad hoc consultations and problem solving patient-related issues in the public sector take up about 20 per cent of a radiologist’s time in non-reporting patient management which is not recognised by hospital admin,” the report said, adding that this did not include time spent teaching a training registrars and trainees.

It warned that time constraints and other pressures were compromising training and imposing a significant burden on radiologists, particularly junior specialists.

“There is a shortage of staff, and the service requirements are impacting on training,” the group said. “The increases in workload are placing undue pressure on radiology trainees, in terms of on-call, supervision and checking of their reports, as well as apprentice model teaching.”

Adrian Rollins