Fifty years ago, the practice of radiology was far less complex than it is today. X-ray was the lone modality and the ability to read plain films and make an accurate diagnosis was the radiologist’s primary role. Certainly not an easy job, but one with a singular and specialized focus.

However, in the last 35 years or so, things changed dramatically. The 1970s saw the invention of the MRI and CT scanner and the expertise required of the radiologist instantly expanded. Add to that the advent of technologies like PACS, RIS, voice recognition, and electronic health records—all of which brought with it a new demand: technological savvy. Now top it all off with recent business challenges. Following the Deficit Reduction Act and dramatic reimbursement cuts, radiologists had no choice but to cultivate skills that help improve workflow, maximize throughput, and manage the bottom line.

Clearly, the profession today is vastly different than just a few decades ago and calls for a well-rounded skill set. Axis Imaging News wanted to find out first-hand just what qualities and expertise decision-makers at hospitals and imaging centers are seeking in today’s radiologists, so we conducted our first recruitment survey.

Of the 107 responses we received, 30.8% listed their title as radiologist or chief/chairman of radiology; another 30.8% included radiology administrators, directors, and managers. The majority of responses—59%—came from those employed at hospitals, with 25.2% being large hospitals (400+ beds). Another 23.4% said they worked in an imaging center. Most importantly, IE‘s survey respondents clearly play a critical role in hiring decisions—57.9% said they are part of the evaluation team, while 15.9% said they are the final decision-maker.

While some of the survey findings are what you might expect, there were surprises as well. For example, we asked: Aside from proven radiology/diagnostic reading expertise, what skill or talent do you feel is most important in a new radiologist? The ability to interact effectively with the entire health care team ranked first (64.5%) and subspecialty expertise ranked second (27.1%). Interestingly, business acumen came in last (7.5%). With today’s reimbursement challenges and increased scrutiny of imaging utilization, one would assume that institutions would place a premium on strategic business thinkers.

On the other hand, hospitals and imaging centers do appear to be seeking radiologists with strong interpersonal skills—something the profession is not well known for, traditionally. But with the rise of teleradiology—as well as an increasing number of nonradiology physicians performing imaging exams—it should come as no surprise that today’s hospitals and imaging centers are seeking candidates who are willing to be more visible. When asked what skills the next generation of radiologists need in order to preserve the value of the profession, 54.2% of respondents said interpersonal skills with referring physicians and staff, and 34.6% said patient interaction skills.

Our survey results also point to the concerns of employers regarding their ability to continue to attract and retain radiologists in the future. More than half of those surveyed—57.9%—said they believe teleradiology providers are tapping into the talent pool, leaving traditional facilities with fewer qualified candidates. What’s more, employers are well aware of demographic trends. Research shows that many radiologists are nearing retirement age and fewer medical students are choosing radiology as their specialty track. When asked how these two facts affect their organization’s ability to recruit new radiologists, an overwhelming 71.9% of respondents said that this dual situation makes it presently problematic to find new, qualified candidates (30.8%), or that it will make it problematic 5 years from now (36.4%), or 10 years down the line (4.7%).

So what does all of this mean to today’s radiologists? There appears to be a real need for future leadership, but today’s radiologists must bring a depth of knowledge and a sophisticated skill set to the table. Do you have what it takes?

Marianne Matthews Marianne Matthews