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Radiologists Make More Mistakes When Working Longer Hours

Overtime and long hours can result in poor job performance in practically any career. However, a new study has found that this is especially true for radiologists. Researchers Tarek Hanna, MD, assistant professor of radiology at Emory University, and Christine Lamoureux, MD, a radiologist at vRad, analyzed the repercussions that long shifts can have on radiologists and their image assessment capabilities, and found that burning the midnight oil can cause radiologists to make more errors.

The researchers evaluated 2,922,377 imaging exams from a teleradiology practice’s 2015 database. Radiologists at teleradiology practices read more late night exams than physicians at traditional healthcare facilities. However, teleradiology environments are usually quieter than a typical reading room. The researchers counted a total of 4,294 “major discrepancies,” totaling a 1.5 percent discrepancy rate. The errors were originally identified by a second reading or the practice’s quality control staff. All of the initial assessments were made by board-certified radiologists.

Most errors were made at the end of the radiologists’ shifts. These discrepancies were usually made by radiologists who were, on average, working roughly between 6.69 and 11.15 hours. The researchers found that errors increased around the radiologist’s ninth hour on the job, and the rate of discrepancies peaked at 10 hours and onward. They also determined that “shifts with major discrepancies had significantly higher absolute study volume and higher study volume per hour: For shifts in which a major discrepancy occurred, the total volume was 118.96 ± 66.89, and the mean number of studies per hour was 13.06 ± 6.10.”

The researchers didn’t identify a pattern between working consecutive long days and discrepancy quantity. Yet these findings should encourage administrators to be mindful of scheduling practices, as radiologists who work longer shifts are more likely to lose concentration toward the end of the day.

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