The Radiologist Burnout Crisis
The recent Medscape Radiologist Lifestyle, Happiness and Burnout Report, released in February 2023, shows that burnout and depression continue to be a major challenge for radiology professionals. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, radiology was ranked at 86% for the happiest specialties in their lives outside of work. Today, that percentage has fallen to 61%. The clarion call for attention to the issue of workflow, wellness and its impact on patient care is louder and clearer than ever.
According to the report, 36% of radiologists overall feel burned out; 2% feel depressed; 18% feel both burned out and depressed; and 44% claim other factors for their dissatisfaction. As for the severity of their burnout, 44% feel it had a strong or severe impact on their life; 31% claim it has made a moderate impact; and 25% said it had little to no impact. A Harvard Business Review article, from August 2022, shared research that burnout can manifest in three different ways: overload burnout — feeling obligated to work at an unsustainable pace; under-challenged burnout — feeling bored with a lack of motivation; and neglect burnout — feeling utterly worn out.
The Medscape survey states that key contributing factors to radiologist burnout are: Too many hours (62%); Lack of control/autonomy (41%); Government regulations (22%); and EHRs (10%), to name a few. In fact, the report goes on to say that EHR documentation, in general, continues to frustrate clinicians. Report authors noted, “On average, physicians spent 1.84 hours/day beyond work hours completing EHR documentation, according to research published in a JAMA Internal Medicine report. That adds up to 9.2 hours spent each week on work outside of the workday.”
David R. Gruen, MD, MBA, FACR, chief medical officer at Merative, summarized the burnout crisis well during a conversation I had with him at RSNA22. “One of the big trends is there really is a crisis of radiologists. There are just not enough of us to get the work done,” he stressed, adding, “And so, we need to think about as an industry, ‘What we do and how do we do it?’ We’re not looking for more machinery to take care of more patients, because we don’t have the people to actually push the buttons on a scanner … we’ve tried to figure out a way to get more people through our system and added machines to do that, we as an industry. I think one of the major themes the industry is looking for is technology solutions that we can invest in to help with a problem. We kind of anticipated this, but not to the extent that it has panned out,” explained Gruen.
So what are the workflow solutions? “We need smarter workflows,” Gruen stressed. “We need to move to the cloud so that we can look at images wherever we are, wherever they are. Because of this concept of universal viewing or universal workflow — seamless workflow wherever we are, which is very much the mission that we’re on — we can make life better for radiologists on their grounds. And I think that’s the pain point that we as an industry need to address.” Here’s hoping so.