By 2033, The U.S. could fall short almost 42,000 of the needed radiologists and other specialist physicians, according to a recently released analysis by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed a light on the difficulty many Americans have in accessing healthcare.  Even before COVID-19 started, the AAMC showed in a sperate survey that 35% of Americans reported having trouble finding a doctor.

An estimated shortage of radiologists is not news. What is concerning is the fact that the estimated shortfall seems to be getting worse, not better. 

The Impact of AI

As more specialists retire, and the average age of the population continues to increase, some hold a hope that major innovations, namely AI, will increase radiology team’s productivity enough to off-set the shortage.

Unfortunately, AI is also part of the problem.

According to a survey of 150+ medical students from radiology interest groups at medicals schools across the U.S., 44% of students stated that AI made them less enthusiastic about pursuing radiology.  In a separate similar study, 26% of students cited AI as the reason they were avoiding imaging as their specialty.

How are Radiology Practices Responding?

Solutions that have been employed by practices to win over the slowly dwindling physician pool include

  • Embracing the recent expansion of scope of practice laws allowing radiology assistants (RAs) to perform some of the same tasks Radiologists do without their direct supervision.
  • Hiring students even early while still in grad school
  • Hiring physicians out of retirement
  • Relocating providers

These efforts do not and cannot represent a sustainable solution to the radiologist shortage.  Coming up with a lasting solution for this problem is vastly complicated and will require extensive effort from many parties.

Teleradiology: A Coping Strategy

Of course, another way to adapt to this problem is to simply begin to outsource your report creation.

Many companies have already outsourced some of their reporting to help save on staffing costs during COVID-19.  It seems natural that if the radiologist shortage continues to grow, that more and more imaging sites will turn to 3rd parties for reading services.

For practices looking to take advantage of the trend and start your own reading services, they would benefit from looking at medQ’s Reading Services Module and reporting solution.  It’s the perfect interoperable workflow setup you need to become the perfect-fit reading solution for any site.