Photographers have their magic hour and drinkers their happy hour. After another week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, it is clear that radiologists need a special hour of their own. Call it the transmission hour, the hour of enlightenment, call it what you like, but do it: spend time each day communicating findings—either significant or incidental or both—to referrers.

With the virtual whip of Simon Legree overhead urging greater productivity and ever-more RVUs, how does a radiologist responsibly step back and take an hour to interface when there are a growing number of electronic ways to communicate these results? And how does a radiology department administrator endorse it? And what does a practice administrator do to make up for the lost revenue? I submit that an hour a day spent servicing referrers could provide some protection on the day of reckoning for every group in America. That is the day that the roadblocks to global radiology are overrun. And they will be.

These 21st-century invaders may not appear as expected, such as in the form of a US-trained radiologist working from New Delhi or an offshore American teleradiology company. It could be the teleradiology group based in Belgium that provides reads for mobile MRI in England, where the National Health Service is attempting to reduce its MRI backlog. The group also covers academic departments in the Netherlands, which are experiencing their own academic radiologist crisis and are not just interested in offloading general radiography but subspecialty ENT work as well. In the interest of quality assurance, the group double-reads every study and has instituted a peer review program that sounds very similar to the American College of Radiology’s RADPEER program. What is the group’s next target market? It is looking for a partner in the 50 United States.

So how do you make time for this daily outreach? If your group can hold it together for another decade, considerable assistance will arrive in the form of computer-assisted diagnosis. At least two presenters at the meeting referenced the book The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, in which the futurist Ray Kurzweil, PhD, predicts that computers will exceed the ability of humans to think by 2020, and by 2050, computers will be a billion times faster than we. These ideas and the rapidly accelerating ability of imaging to generate information lent the meeting a sense of urgency, and the atmosphere was electric with the growing realization that the future is approaching far more rapidly than at any other time in history. It is not inconceivable that the consultative role of radiology will be more important than the interpretative moving forward.

So, consider the transmission hour. I acknowledge that this idea has the scent of quaintness about it, but that is the point. Leaders in radiology have for over a decade urged the ranks to step outside the reading room and make contact with patients and referrers. Peggy J. Fritzsche, MD, called it “face time” in her 2003 Presidential Address to the RSNA.

Take an hour today or radiology risks falling victim to its own efficiency.

Cheryl Proval