Teleradiology means radiologists need no longer be confined to hospital radiology departments.  It can offer UK-qualified radiologists greater flexibility of hours, the opportunity to work part time, from home, or from offices around the UK, or even across the world – while speeding up reporting.

Dr Robin Evans, consultant radiologist at Croydon University Hospital says: “British qualified radiologists in the right time zones can help provide UK hospitals with a fast, efficient out-of hours service.”

For instance, radiologists based in the UK or abroad in similar time zones can provide early morning and evening coverage, but those in Australia and New Zealand can be used overnight.

“They are working during their daytime, which means that they are operating at optimum levels of safety, speed and efficiency,” says Evans.

“Working in teleradiology from abroad could suit radiologists who are semi-retired or taking a sabbatical from UK careers, and those who want to retain their GMC registration.”

The flexibility of teleradiology employment also means team members can work full, or part-time, as employees or contractors. “The ability to choose their hours means those who provide evening cover can fit the hours around a daytime job or caring responsibilities,” says Evans. “Complying with the European Working Time Directive avoids radiologists getting overstretched and the use of radiologists based abroad means that the NHS is not deprived of scarce radiology resources”.

Teleradiology need not be confined to reporting on the most straightforward scans. It is also used for emergency reporting.

“Emergency work includes reporting on CT scans of the head following suspected stroke, where swift turnaround and diagnosis is essential so medical staff can administer clot-busting drugs if required,” says Evans.

“Teleradiology can also provide fast reports in emergency cases such as polytrauma caused by accidents. Emergency radiology has been traditionally handled  by junior doctors and consultant radiologists on call or on night duty, but radiologists working for teleradiology services get greater exposure to emergency radiology than radiologists working in an individual hospital, so they get greater experience of emergency reporting.”

Turnaround times of between 15 and 60 minutes enable fast emergency diagnosis and enable NHS trusts to meet treatment deadlines. Evans says: “This can provide the kind of  consultant-led emergency radiology service that can be hard to find in the UK.”

Teleradiology is also at the forefront of clinical governance practices and ongoing training, Evans points out: “Suppliers use systematic peer review systems to help reduce discrepancy rates and identify areas for learning and system improvement.  Clinical governance systems are more sophisticated than in most busy hospital radiology departments."

The future will see enhanced teleradiology services, Evans says. “More integration between teleradiology providers' systems and those of hospitals will mean more real-time reporting and discussion between doctors and teleradiologists. This enhances trust and confidence between the two practitioners, which leads to improved communication and better outcomes for patients.”