A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology (JACR) suggests that having staggered radiologist work shifts speed delivery of results and improve patient care.

While many radiology centers are turning to 24/7 teleradiology services to cover their overnight needs, some institutions use staggered shifts to cover nearly round-the-clock care; others rely on the more traditional on-call system to cover urgent findings. This latest study compares the on-call and staggered shifts systems.

The Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School researchers conducted a retrospective comparison using over 6000 emergency room imaging exams. The researchers compared the interval between the acquisition and communication of urgent findings on portable overnight critical care chest radiography detected by an early-morning shift for radiologists (3 am to 11 am) with a standard daytime shift (8 am to 5 pm) in the detection and communication of urgent findings in a similar patient population a year earlier.

On average, the early morning shifts communicated urgent findings two hours earlier than control groups with standard on-call protocols. The mean elapsed time from image acquisition to the communication of urgent results was 340 minutes in the study group and 457 minutes in the on-call control group—almost two hours difference.

Rathachai Kaewlai, MD, lead author of the study said in a press release, “Our results support the concept that staggered radiologist work shifts have the potential to expedite the communication of urgent findings and improve patient care.”

The study is titled “The Impact of an Early-Morning Radiologist Work Shift on the Timeliness of Communicating Urgent Imaging Findings on Portable Chest Radiography” and is available on the JACR website.

(Source: Press Release)