Interruptions in the Reading Room

Interruptions in the Reading Room


A recent study published on June 27th in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology confirms the detrimental impact of interruptions in the reading room. Researchers observed the activities of 13 pediatric radiologists affiliated with Ohio University — working in a large, free-standing pediatric care facility with level 1 trauma. During all shifts, the radiologists’ activities were in general, neuroradiology, and body reading rooms. The study’s primary goal was to determine the percentage of time spent interpreting a study, with or without interruption.

The study group’s goal was to determine the frequency and type of interruptions that radiologists typically experience in the reading room. Recent estimates indicate that interruptions in radiology reading rooms cost companies about $588 billion in lost productivity.

The radiologists’ activities were tracked for 61 hours — interpreting 561 studies — 439 radiographs, 32 ultrasounds, 51 MRIs, and 39 CTs. Approximately 31 hours were observed in the general reading room, with the other 30 hours equally divided between the neuroradiology and the body reading rooms.

The radiologists spent virtually the same time interpreting studies as they did on interruptions — 52% of their time devoted to reading, 29% to operational disruption, and 18% to passive interruptions. Interruptions included:

  • 50% to in-person conversations and consults
  • 16% involved phone calls, with 67% of those being inbound

The researchers documented that the longest uninterrupted period was 20 minutes. Interruptions increase the length of time required to complete a study:

  • 1 extra minute for radiographs
  • 2 additional minutes for an ultrasound
  • 6 extra minutes for a CT scan
  • 10 additional minutes for an MRI

The researchers noted that interruptions cost the radiologist the time it took to address the interruption and added to the time to complete the reading.

Researchers utilized the results of their study to implement changes as part of the hospital’s quality improvement initiative. The main reading room now has sound barriers, and the neurology and body rooms were combined. A reading room assistant now triages phone calls and uses an intake form to document non-urgent requests. The radiology department began using a text-based communication method through the EMR system and a phone-based application for communication between departments. Imaging protocols were standardized to minimize calls from the radiology techs — tech training was enhanced to foster more confidence.

Implementing a time study could be a wise financial decision. Not only will your radiology reading rooms become more efficient, but fewer interruptions will increase patient safety.