Radiology practice has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been a sharp decline in imaging volume and a significant increase in remote working. There have also been changes in clinical operations in radiology departments across the world.
As some regions begin to stabilise, radiologists are slowly returning to their practices. However, an important question that many radiologists are asking is: how should they return to normal operation after the initial COVID-19 surge?
The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) COVID-19 Task Force has issued several recommendations on best practices related to radiology and COVID-19. These recommendations are published in a paper titled "Post-COVID Surge Radiology Preparedness" and focus on strategies to reopen elective screening and other time-sensitive examinations that were postponed because of COVID-19.
The most important thing, as radiologists resume operations, would be to deliver services safely. It will be important to figure out how patient appointments will be scheduled, how patients will be separated etc. However, there is a backlog of postponed imaging studies, and these must be brought back on track.
Another challenge that radiology departments will face as they resume their practice will be to convince patients to resume their exams. Many patients will not be willing to return for screening because of fear or because they don’t think the exams are as critical as they did pre-pandemic, or they may not have insurance because of employment issues during the pandemic.
There is a general consensus that remote working will become a standard part of the new normal in radiology. This is because there has been a realisation that workflow processes can be efficient while working remotely. Teleradiology services have resulted in a reduction in turnaround time, and there has also been an improvement in commination among physicians because of remote working during the pandemic.
While there will still be a need for radiologists to be physically present in hospitals, many radiology departments and practices can continue to work remotely because they have invested in technology during the pandemic to enable a remote work environment. Hence, shifting some workers to work from home could reduce expenses, parking congestion, commuting time and will still be efficient enough to provide quality clinical care.
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