Radiologists are looking for more work-life balance. In response, practices of all sizes have been letting rads read from home.
But here’s the catch. By itself, teleradiology doesn’t optimize work-life balance. In fact, a virtual workplace can be every bit as demanding and draining as a traditional office. If you don’t have access to seasoned, telehealth-specific technology, support and culture—you’re only jumping from frying pan to fire when you work remotely.
As a physician recruiter, I speak with hundreds of radiologists every year considering remote reading to achieve better work-life balance. Many of whom have found that harmony working for vRad. With that in mind, here are my six must-ask questions for rads doing due diligence on reading remotely.
1. Will I have dedicated, knowledgeable and attentive technical support?
This is one of the most important factors to consider. In a remote setting, your productivity depends heavily on the reliability and readiness of a skilled and focused IT team. The IT team must treat you as their most valued client whenever you need them. That means 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
When things are running smoothly, you should be confident they’re maintaining infrastructure, updating applications and maximizing uptime.
Before you move to any form of remote reading, you’ll want to understand the details of your IT support:
- Is tech support a contracted third-party or in house?
- How many members are on the team?
- How are they contacted and how fast will they respond?
- What are the duties and responsibilities of the tech team?
- Do they use a VPN? (A VPN can allow for easier processing of large images.)
- How frequently does the tech team update equipment? (Newer equipment runs faster, performs better and provides higher quality images – supporting efficiency and productivity as well as diagnostic accuracy.)
- Will they help set up your workstation and get you reading ASAP?
- Will your monitor automatically calibrate?
The key takeaway is an unequipped or overburdened IT team and IT infrastructure are going to slow you down or worse, impact your ability to provide quality patient care. By asking the right questions, you can ensure you’re set up for success from a reading and productivity perspective.
2. Will reading remotely affect my compensation?
If you’re in a practice and going to be working remotely some or all of the time, it’s important to understand how the arrangement might impact your compensation.
- Will the technology platform and level of support affect your ability read efficiently?
“Platform and process can present frustrating limitations on your compensation,” recently-retired vRad Medical Director Raymond Montecalvo, MD pointed out in a prior blog post. “For example, if a platform can’t accommodate viewing more than one image at a time or forces you to go off platform to make a phone call or get critical information or a consult, then you’re losing time, productivity and the opportunity to work [and earn] at your potential.”
3. What will the platform and software be like?
Be sure to find out what type of software you’ll be using.
- Is it an off-the-shelf platform from outside software development companies?
- Or is it built by the practice specifically for radiologists working daily in teleradiology?
Look for a platform that seamlessly integrates the worklist, PACS, voice-recognition dictation, structured reporting, patient health records, operational support, and referring physician communications to be sure you’re staying as productive and efficient as possible.
Additional helpful features like natural language processing, AI and other advanced technologies also are important when considering how a platform will impact your reading efficiency.
4. Will it be easy to communicate with colleagues, referring physicians and technologists?
Just because you work remotely doesn’t mean you should be alone on a virtual island. It’s important to know what communication will look like with your fellow radiologists, ordering physicians and technologists.
- Will you be able to easily consult on cases with your radiologist colleagues?
Here’s what vRad radiologist Katie Lozano, MD says in her blog post:
“I can speak to my colleagues by videophone. We can share the same screen when we consult each other on challenging cases. At my fingertips are engaged colleagues, advisors, mentors, physicians–a community of friends who support me in the practice of radiology.”
- What is the process for contacting the ordering physician or technologist? Will you be waiting on hold?
“I can request immediate help by clicking a button right in the study I’m reading,” vRad’s Jim Sloves, MD, recently blogged. “A window appears; I select the appropriate option for whatever support I need—Request Prior Reports or Images, Speak with Ordering Physician, Request Missing History and so on. Our OC team snaps to action behind the scenes while I continue reading cases.”
5. Is my remote arrangement temporary?
If your practice or one you’re considering started offering remote reading during the pandemic, you’ll want to make sure you know if and when you’ll have to return onsite.
Working remotely for a private practice, you’ll also want to know how remote work fits into the practice’s culture.
- Is there a healthy, positive dynamic between onsite radiologists and remote radiologists?
- Will the practice’s efforts to uphold the well-being of their radiologists extend into your remote-reading environment?
As Dr. Montecalvo notes:
“While [a practice’s philosophy] is certainly less tangible and abstract compared to the more transactional elements…this doesn’t mean it won’t bear directly on your compensation, your practice and ultimately, your happiness.”
6. Can I work remotely in a location and setting of my own personal choice?
A huge appeal of working remotely is getting to live where you want to and enjoying a healthy and happy work-life balance. But if your practice is in a less-than-ideal place, located where internet speed is an issue, or still requiring you to go into the facility one or more days a week, you’re missing out.
I’ve seen firsthand many times how the six points above can profoundly affect not only radiologists’ work-life balance, but also their clinical productivity and job satisfaction.