For almost all of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our daily lives in some form or another. Some folks have been temporarily furloughed or lost their jobs. Other radiologists are infected and sickened by the virus. And, we all feel a level of heightened anxiety. But, one day, this situation shall end, hopefully, sooner rather than later. Moreover, with the end of the pandemic, the field of radiology will never be the same. It will be a post-COVID-19 era, a new world for radiology.
So, what will change in our field after the dust settles, and we approach a more “normal” life once again? This question is what I will attempt to answer to give us an idea. So, let’s divide my predictions into the following categories: demand for radiology residency, remote learning, teleradiology, and finally, numbers of onsite radiologists. No, I am not the oracle of Delphi, and I cannot foretell the future with certainty. However, my sixteen-year experience in the field of radiology and work with radiology residents allows me to make some educated guesses about what we can expect to change in radiology at the end of this pandemic. Let’s give this a whirl!
Increased Demand For Radiology Post Covid-19
Medical students throughout the country are in the thick of the action. And, they can now see the role that different physician specialists play in a pandemic. I am sure that many medical students will notice that radiologists play a vital role in the diagnosis and management of COVID-19. Yet, they tend not to be on the front lines like the Emergency Physicians, internists, and surgeons. Not to say we don’t come in contact with these patients. But, for many medical students, I believe this critical role we play, and our overall relative decreased exposure to contagious disease will become an attractive feature that draws more applicants into the fold. I would imagine seeing more applications to radiology residency for the next several match cycles.
Remote Learning For Radiology Residents
Due to the restrictions on group meetings, most programs, by now, have shored up their capabilities to give teleconferences and administer online learning materials. Before, for many residencies, it was only an adjunct to learning. Now, just like for public education, it has become a necessity and will become ingrained into the fabric of all residencies throughout the country. I believe this will stick.
For practices that didn’t have much of an online presence outside the hospital, they now will. If you read my previous article, Coronavirus: A Clarion Call For Universal Home Teleradiology, you will understand that it is incumbent on practices to develop an online presence to decrease exposure to disease, and increase efficiency and workforce flexibility. Hospitals and practices are waking up to these issues. And, these changes are taking place right now forever transforming radiology.
Fewer Onsite Radiologists
Of course, hospitals and practices need onsite radiologists to fulfill their obligations. We need to do the biopsies, treatments, direct patient care, interventions, and more. However, we do not need to do much of the work onsite. And, all radiologists will, therefore, have more flexibility to read from home, outside the normal confines of an office or hospital. Teleradiology will no longer be only for teleradiologists, but rather a tool for all radiologists. And, thus, you will see fewer radiologists sitting at hospital workstations. Instead, clinicians will call many more radiologists at their home offices with their questions.
Radiology In A Post Covid-19 Era
Yes. The field of radiology will never be quite the same. We are moving toward different practices and norms. And, increase demand/applications for our specialty, ubiquitous remote learning, universal teleradiology, and a leaner number of radiologists stationed at hospitals and practices are some of the features that you will most likely notice in a post-Covid era. Although some of you may disagree, it makes logical sense as we are developing the infrastructure for these changes as the pandemic continues to smolder. So, look around your departments over the next several months and years. Just like the addition of PACs, or when CT became part of bread and butter radiology, you will be taking part in the next sea change of our field!
If you think of other changes or disagree with my predictions, shoot me some comments or an email about what you think. I would be interested to hear your opinions!