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Has Technology Damaged Radiology Culture? How Can We Fix It?

Advancements in technology have improved many aspects of radiology — from communication to record organization to faster imaging. However, just as much as technology has made radiology work easier, it has also lessened interpersonal interactions and changed the professional climate in many reading rooms and healthcare facilities. According to an op-ed in Radiology Business by Paula T. Gonyea, MBA, RT, the director of radiology services at the University of Vermont Medical Center, this digital revolution in radiology has significantly changed clinical culture.

We’ve discussed the negative social repercussions of PACS before, and how the technology has created a divide between radiologists and other specialties. Gonyea remarks that since clinicians started working with 128 and 256-slice scanners instead of one, two, and four-slice scanners, along with the invention of PACS, physician rapport has become more superficial. “Conversations about quality are replaced with electronic options for placing remarks regarding image quality or technique, with little opportunity for a dialogue of what may have transpired,” she writes. “Lost is the opportunity to share anecdotes about the patient’s physical condition, state of mind, worries and concerns; these concerns are now condensed into one or two sentences in the technologist’s notes.”

Gonyea also notes that technology has fostered more effective ways of communication, like easier and faster access to images and reports. However, by the same token, these new communication methods are sometimes challenging to interpret. “A quick electronic note from a radiologist to address quality can be misread as terse or exasperated by the technologist,” she explains. “A hasty note from the technologist may lose the sense of criticality of the patient’s condition or may minimize difficulties in obtaining a high-quality exam.”

Although these tech advancements have been long established in radiology, Gonyea believes that there’s ways to improve the workplace culture. She recommends Kaizen Events, a series of activities that encourage clinicians to come together and brainstorms tactics and solutions. Kaizen events usually span three days, and require a commitment from all participants in order to create and implement a more supportive clinical environment.

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