The strain placed on hospitals and healthcare professionals due to the COVID-19 pandemic is undeniable. Healthcare professionals in all practice areas have reported burnout, stress, and staffing issues. The ripple effect created by COVID-19 has impacted one area in particular: radiologists.
Radiology staff members are integral to providing appropriate care, and the profession is currently experiencing a global shortage of workers, according to the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). Per the RSNA, there has been a 34% increase in adults over 65. Incidentally, this is the same age group that requires the most imaging. The profession is decreasing just as the demand increases, placing stress on the radiology community. Professionals have expressed that the easiest way to remedy the issue would be to expand possibilities for residencies in radiology and garner interest in the field for medical students early on. In doing so, the hope is that more radiology professionals will enter the field and help alleviate the stress placed on the shrinking number of radiologists.
How Does the Radiologist Shortage Affect Patients?
A study conducted from 2013 to 2017 showed that 15% of medical malpractice claims involved radiologists. The errors most commonly found among that amount were largely related to oversights in perception, training, and communication lapses in the coordination of care. Pre-pandemic, radiologists were already struggling with making significant mistakes and oversights. With the uptick in people requiring imaging and the smaller number of individuals able to provide those services, it follows that oversights and mistakes will continue to be made at higher rates than before.
From a patient perspective, the error rate is alarming and cause for concern. Therefore, action on the part of the radiology community and healthcare community at large is imperative to safeguard the health and wellbeing of patients before minor problems become life-altering.
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