Is The Radiology Home Workstation Becoming Too Good?
At the home of most radiologists nowadays, you will find a computer remotely hooked up to a Picture Archiving And Communication System (PACS) where they can look at films and dictate cases. As I sit typing this blog, I am staring at a home workstation across the room myself. It enables me to read studies from home with all the comforts thereof. Additionally, I find that the chair here is comfier, the mouse works a bit better, and there are fewer glitches on it than the ones at work. But this presents an issue that even I have felt a few times. Why go into the hospital when I can do some of the same things with one home’s amenities and work even more efficiently? Is there any role for reading from an on-site computer?
Well, if you do read in the reading room at your facility, gone are the days when most specialists would come down often to the department to read over a film in your reading room. Instead, you are lucky to get a few stragglers-by, usually, a resident who wants to learn a bit, or maybe a physician with a family member that needs a read on a film. Yes, the din of conversation of colleagues has continued to melt away slowly. But, with decreasing clinical interactions, even on-site, do our comfy home workstations represent the final nail in the coffin for working at the hospital? And what do we lose by being able to do our work at home more efficiently than from the workplace? Let’s summarize some of the most significant losses and problems in this new world as we work at our home workstations instead of on-site.
Future Colleagues And Friends (Outside of Radiology)
Some of the most excellent docs that I have encountered; I have only met because they stopped by the reading room to look at a film with me. And, slowly, over time, I got to know them better. Eventually, we might have lunch together on occasion or see each other at some staff meetings. It’s just not the same when you get a ring from a doctor to look at a film. And even with fewer interactions at work, these new potential connections are lost.
Meaningful Interactions And Learning Opportunities
When a fellow specialist walks into the reading room to look at a study, they will typically talk about their work. And, usually, I will learn something new about their specialty. Maybe, it’s a new technique that the surgeon uses or a new technology that the gastroenterologist operates. Regardless, fewer interactions at home without our colleagues means fewer opportunities to learn about other areas in medicine.
Likewise, sometimes I want to bring home an essential point to a clinician that came down to check out a study. Perhaps, it’s when to use contrast on a CT scan. Or, maybe it’s when they should order a V/Q scan. These were teachable moments to make sure that clinicians used imaging appropriately. Now, some of these focused teaching opportunities to improve care are lost.
Increasing Burn-Out (For Some)
Then, of course, with the complete loss of foot traffic at home instead of work, we lose some sense of connection to others. This disconnect can lead to a loss of meaning in our work. On-site, you are more likely to hear about what happened in the operating room or the patient on the floor. Working from home can distort your sense of reality. And, us results-oriented radiologists can lose a sense of meaning in our work, causing burnout.
So, Is The Home Workstation Too Good?
I have to admit. Sometimes, it is pleasant to be able to read studies from the comfort of home. And, there are certainly moments to take advantage of that. But, I believe that there is still a time and a place to spend some time at the hospital workstation. The home workstation will never be too good to replace the imaging center environment entirely. Although we may not realize it at any given moment as we work from the hospital, most of us still receive fringe benefits. I don’t think the home workstations will ever entirely replace on-site work!