Nighthawks, dayhawks, and the demise of the American radiologist

More hospitals are resorting to so-called “dayhawk” radiology services to read their x-rays.

It’s modeled after the “nighthawk” model, where radiologists (via Shadowfax), in some cases as far away as India, remotely read films in the middle of the night.

Now, the phenomenon is happening during business hours as well, which according to radiologist Giles W. L. Boland, means that “some radiologists can no longer assume long-term job security because their core value proposition can now be outsourced.”

This trend was entirely foreseeable. Cash-strapped hospitals are finding it cheaper to outsource x-ray readings, and furthermore, it seems that both nighthawks and dayhawks provide better service and more timely interpretations. This adds up to a declining need for an in-house radiology staff.

That’s bad news for some. Radiology departments at smaller hospitals may close, and eventually general radiologist salaries will come under pressure.

The answer? Like everything else in medicine, radiology sub-specialists will increasingly be in demand. Expect procedure-based, interventional radiology to grow, since what they do cannot be outsourced. Health care costs will correspondingly rise.

So, like primary care, don’t be surprised if the days of general radiology are numbered.

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