How to Retain World-Class Radiologists

A healthcare professional shares her insight on acquiring and retaining radiology talent

This past August, the Commission on Human Resources at the American College of Radiology (ACR)’s Workforce Survey found new radiologist positions in 2016 will be 16% higher than in 2015. They noted “an improved outlook” for those looking for new radiologist jobs in 2016. This is positive news for Board-eligible radiologists, as well as those looking for new opportunities in the field of teleradiology.

But as the demand for imaging services increases, how can clinical practices — once they find the right talent — keep it? Ensure that your radiologists have the best tools and work with innovative minds that are moving the practice of radiology forward.

In our practice, our radiologists know they play a part in shaping the future of radiology and patient care. In short, we believe in our people. We work hard to keep our radiologists happy and engaged and it pays off; we have an annual physician retention rate of more than 95%.

Our radiologists are our best and most important asset. Our goal is to onboard ideal candidates essential for consistent and quality patient care. It’s critical to the success of our practice to keep radiologists, engaged, productive and happy—this requires going beyond the standard teleradiology offerings of compensation or full malpractice insurance.

Lifestyle Flexibility, Work-Life Balance

With 500+ radiologists on-staff, we provide our radiologists with the ability to work seven days on and seven days off (up to 26 weeks of time off per year). This flexible full-time schedule provides a significant level of lifestyle freedom. “I appreciate the flexibility vRad provided me when it came to picking up an extra shift or two,” said Jed Santa Maria, MD, a vRad radiologist since 2012. “I was able to save for a down payment on my house by picking up extra summer shifts.”

It also allows the freedom to travel or — in the case of Jim Sloves, MD, a vRad radiologist since 2011 — pursue his passion for skiing. “I cherish the work/life balance vRad provides. I have never missed a single powder day since being with vRad,” he noted. “Plus, I can live wherever I want, which for me is Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevadas.”

We work with radiologists to find schedules that allow them to pursue other interests, so that when they are reading studies, they are motivated, focused and productive.

Technology-Enabled Practice

Our radiologist reading platform moves millions of images to our more than 500 physicians 24 hours per day. To develop our radiologist reading platform, we invested more than $50 million in cloud-based technology, as well as natural language processing (NLP), voice recognition, structured reporting and Deep Learning/Artificial Intelligence to develop a platform that supports the distribution, prioritization and completion of millions of annual imaging studies, as well as the real-time personal connections between our radiologists and 2,100 hospitals, health systems and radiology group partners.

Our radiologists also have 24/7/365 support from our award-winning Operations Center (OC) and technology teams, which relieve our radiologists of many administrative and logistical distractions. OC personnel monitor every incoming order from across the country — from the moment we receive the order, until the automated system forwards the report to the ordering physician or client facility. Each step is recorded, time stamped, and supervised; our patented, rules-based, auto-routing feature ensures the right study gets to the right radiologist — in the shortest amount of time.

“The practice of radiology requires more multitasking than ever before,” said Christine Lamoureux, MD, who has been a vRad Radiologist since 2010 and whose specialty is Musculoskeletal Radiology. “Having OC services is like having a personal liaison to do things like answer and triage phone calls, and help me obtain additional images and prior exams, etc. I can focus a lot more on the exams I am reading with far fewer interruptions than I had in my former years in private practice. This, I believe, really helps optimize patient care.”

By automating as many non-administrative tasks as possible, our radiologists focus on reading studies and helping doctors help their patients.

Allowing Reading Within Your Subspecialty

Imaging modalities are increasing in complexity and are escalating the importance of subspecialty expertise. While this can drive up the demand for radiologists with relevant experience, many rural hospitals and clinics simply are unable to afford the cost of having specialty radiologists on staff.

Given the scale of our clients and operation, there is sufficient volume across many subspecialties:

  • Abdominal and Body
  • CT Colonography
  • Breast Imaging & Telemammography Services
  • Cardiac Radiology (including Coronary CTA and Cardiac MRI)
  • Musculoskeletal Radiology (from plain film to CT)
  • Neuroradiology
  • Nuclear Imaging
  • Pediatric
  • Thoracic
  • Vascular Radiology.

“I enjoy reading at home, and I can collaborate with my colleagues at a moment’s notice,” notes Kopresh Gudi, MD, who recently joined the practice because of the opportunity to satisfy his desire to read plain films exclusively. “vRad’s state-of-the-art workflow platform and 24/7 OC enable me to spend my time helping patients and physicians rather than being occupied by unrelated administrative tasks. vRad allowed me to create a working environment that suits my intertest and sets me up to succeed and be the best plain film reader I can be. They truly operate with the radiologist in mind.”

A Close Community of Collaboration and Innovation

Based on the technology in place, we offer many methods for our radiologists to feel connected with one another so they can communicate and collaborate. This includes opportunities for newly hired radiologists to have experienced clinicians as mentors orient them to our practice and help answer any questions they may have. We offer clinical-focused groups and committees that focus on quality assurance and industry developments. We also offer monthly clinical sessions where senior medical chiefs and directors share the latest clinical research or approaches to radiology.

Overall, our practice works hard to find people who are passionate about radiology and committed to providing quality patient care. We work to make their experience the best possible.

Our CMO Benjamin W. Strong MD, when asked what makes vRad different, said, “There are many factors, but it boils down to two. Firstly, vRad understands intimately the business of teleradiology. We created the modern teleradiology practice. The solution to nearly any problem can be technology-based once you ask the right questions and determine exactly what you are reaching for. vRad built such a system from the ground up, which, in its simplest form, gets the right image to the right radiologist at the right time so they can make a diagnosis, get that diagnosis back to the referring physician, and treat a patient as quickly as possible.

“Secondly, vRad is a born-and-bred Midwestern institution. They are down-to-earth people who say what they think, do what they say, and are motivated to provide a quality service for a reasonable price. I have always valued these characteristics and I have definitely found my ethical and professional counterpart here.”

Just as our radiologists serve our clients, the staff work tirelessly to serve our radiologists. Through innovation, technology leadership and clinical excellence, we all strive to improve the practice of radiology, and care for patients the best way we know how.

Tricia Sickmann is vRad’s vice president of human resources and medical services. vRad was chosen as one of Minnesota Business magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2016. 

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