In 2020, patient adoption of telehealth increased by 33% – and it may continue to rise even after the pandemic resolves! Teleradiology, like telehealth, allows medical professionals to help patients without being physically present.
A teleradiologist is trained in radiology. However, instead of working on-site, they do their job remotely.
There’s a lot more to know about the training and day-to-day job of a teleradiologist. And you can learn more by reading this complete guide!
What Is Teleradiology?
You may already be familiar with the term radiology. It refers to taking images of the inside of the human body. Radiology includes images like ultrasounds, x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans.
Radiology is a key part of diagnosing and treating injuries and illnesses. It can also be used as part of preventive medicine.
The major difference between traditional radiology and teleradiology is that the teleradiologist does not have to be in the same location as the patient. Instead, the teleradiologist receives the images and reports back to the healthcare facility.
Once the images are taken, they are sent securely to a teleradiologist. The teleradiologist will interpret the image and talk with the patient’s healthcare team.
Teleradiology allows for faster, more efficient diagnosis and treatment. You can read more about the benefits and challenges of teleradiology here.
How to Become a Teleradiologist
Teleradiologists are trained as radiologists because the basic requirements of the jobs are the same. They look at images and report what they find.
Teleradiologist education involves a bachelor’s degree. The bachelor’s degree is usually in a health science field like chemistry or biology. Next, is medical school which is usually a 4-year program.
A teleradiologist degree is a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). Following graduation from medical school, an aspiring teleradiologist needs an internship and residency to gain practical experience. Then, comes a fellowship opportunity.
Finally, teleradiologists must pass the appropriate licensure and certification exams. Requirements vary by state. Teleradiologists may work in one state and be reading images from another state, so usually, a valid U.S. certification is acceptable.
As you can see, becoming a teleradiologist is not easy or quick. It requires years of school, training, and practical experience.
Becoming a radiology technician is not the same as becoming a radiologist or teleradiologist. Technician training is about 2 to 4 years and an apprenticeship.
What Does a Teleradiologist Do?
So, what does a day in the life of a teleradiologist look like?
Well, it depends on the setting and the specialty. But it usually consists of two major types of tasks – reading images and communication with other care providers.
Once an image is taken it is transmitted to the teleradiologist. This could be in the form of an email or through a special software program designed to transmit medical images securely. The transmission process is usually fast and efficient.
The teleradiologist will view the image and read for potential signs of injury or illness. They will report their findings as quickly as possible to the local healthcare provider.
Teleradiologists work with institutions like hospitals, primary care clinics, organ procurement organizations. They may even work for multiple organizations at one time.
A teleradiologist can provide a preliminary report or a final report. A preliminary report includes findings from the image and a phone conversation with the local provider. It usually takes about 30-minutes and is reserved for emergency cases.
In these emergency situations, a teleradiologist might diagnose a broken or fractured bone. They can also diagnose time-sensitive medical conditions such as pulmonary thromboembolism or aortic dissection.
Final reports from a teleradiologist are more common in non-emergency situations. The final reports require all relevant patient information and medical history. The report is sent over and the teleradiologist will have a phone call with a member of the patient’s treatment team.
For years, teleradiologists have been helping rural health centers, hospitals, and doctor’s offices that do not have the resources for around-the-clock radiology staff. And now, teleradiologists do more than just diagnose in emergencies, they help with all kinds of patient care.
Moreover, there are teleradiologists that have special training making them experts in specific types of radiology such as:
- Pediatric Neuroradiology
- Thoracic Imaging
- Musculoskeletal Radiology
- Nuclear Cardiology
For a radiologist with one of these specialties, he or she might communicate with a patient’s primary care doctor or other health care team members to coordinate diagnosis, treatment, and care.
Overall, the use of teleradiology for specialty services makes the treatment process faster, less expensive, and more efficient. The time to send, read, and provide information went from days to hours or even minutes when teleradiology was introduced.
The Future of Teleradiology
The growth of telemedicine shows no signs of slowing down – and that includes teleradiology services. Through remote image reading, patients are getting faster diagnoses. Healthcare providers are getting the answers they need to start treatment faster than ever before.
Outsourcing radiology services saves money for healthcare institutions and health insurance providers. It also opens up new opportunities for radiologists to work from anywhere in the country.
Of course, there are some concerns with relying exclusively on teleradiology. If internet connections are slow or computer programs are down it could interfere with the teleradiologist’s ability to do his or her job.
Also, teleradiology findings do not guarantee proper treatment. The teleradiologist is a consultant in the patient’s care, but cannot work directly with the patient. So, if a healthcare facility is understaffed, the teleradiologist can only help so much.
Despite some limitations, teleradiology along with other tele-specialties like telepathology and telecardiology will grow.
Make Way for the Telehealth Revolution
During the 2020 pandemic, providers and patients adopted telehealth services. But the telehealth trend didn’t stop there!
Healthcare organizations started to outsource services to teleradiologists and other telehealth specialists to save time and money.
If you work at a healthcare facility and are interested in hiring a teleradiologist or other remote services, contact us today.