The hidden benefit of remote on-call services

Delivering on-call services via remote teams has clear benefits in terms of helping resource-stretched healthcare providers to deal with workloads. However, recent research shows there may be a further, largely hidden benefit.

In April, the American Journal of Roentgenology published a review of studies on the impact of fatigue on radiologists. Its conclusion was simple: fatigue is present in radiology and affects diagnostic accuracy.

The study echoes research from last year in the Journal of the American College of Radiology that found a worsening in all Swedish Occupational Fatigue Inventory results (lack of energy, physical exertion, physical discomfort, lack of motivation and sleepiness) after overnight shifts.

Fatigue had a significant impact on diagnostic performance, said the authors. This is not surprising. Reading scans is a painstaking process and having to do it against the wishes of your body clock is hardly a recipe for improvement.

Until recently, however, there was little alternative when it came to on-call work. The picture has changed, though, with the advent of on-call services delivered from locations such as Australia. The radiologists there are no longer working the night shift when they check scans.

In fact, given the potential for improved work-life balance in locations such as Sydney, these on-call experts would likely be more alert and motivated even than some of their day-working colleagues in Europe.

Furthermore, this quality factor comes on top of teleradiologists’ ability to enjoy deeper subspecialisation as a result of higher overall caseloads that can be divided up between experts.

When it comes to on-call work, at least, it certainly seems that nearer is not always better.

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