by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | September 14, 2020
While helpful in protecting staff and patient health, tactics employed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have disrupted clinical workflows and led to high levels of anxiety for radiologists across the U.S.
That’s what researchers at the University of Southern California found in survey responses from nearly 700 radiologists in 44 states, which indicated high levels of anxiety among a majority of radiologists, as well as decreases in workload and uncertainty regarding some of their facility’s preparedness against the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on radiologists across the nation,” wrote the authors in their study. “As these unique stressors continue to evolve, further attention must be paid to the ways in which we may continue to support radiologists working in drastically altered practice environments and in remote settings.”
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The use of chest CT for diagnosis and screening of the virus has come under scrutiny, resulting in conflicting guidelines from different societies. Heightened infection control protocols have also made it harder to meet demand for urgent imaging in many facilities, as cleaning protocols for persons under investigation (PUI) may require up to an hour of downtime in between scans.
Of the 1,521 radiologists contacted, 689 responses met the criteria for inclusion in the analysis, which assessed answers given to 43 questions, participants' general demographics and their perceived influence of the pandemic on broad impact, clinical duties, institutional preparedness, research and education, finances, and psychological impact.
As many as 61% rated their level of anxiety as 7 out of 10 or greater. Higher scores positively correlated the standardized number of COVID-19 cases in a respondent’s state. High levels of anxiety were commonly attributed to family health (71%), personal health (47%), and financial concerns (33%). The most common coping strategies were family time (59%) and exercise (57%). Participants who reported needing no coping methods were more likely to self-report lower anxiety scores.
Almost 43% of radiologists indicated they either did not know about or had no access to COVID-19 testing. On an institutional level, 76% felt their medical center was adequately prepared for the chance of a surge, compared to 23% who did not. Only 40% reported their facility to have a mass casualty imaging plan in place, while 60% said there was an increase in utilization of portable imaging. Sixty-five percent said they had adequate teleradiology support, and even fewer reported their medical center had adequate PPE for staff (51%) and patients (46%).