Teleradiology is the practice by hospitals of hiring off-site doctors to view and interpret radiologic studies. It is done via the Internet and cyberspace. Nighthawk Radiology Services is a prime example of this type of service. Teleradiology’s popularity began in the 1990’s in response to a shortage of radiologists and an increasing demand for radiological studies like MRI’s, CT scans, and ultrasounds. Hospitals and clinics initially used teleradiology during night shifts as a way to have films promptly reviewed by American physicians in other time zones of the United States. However, now more and more radiological studies are reviewed and interpreted by a doctor in India, Australia, and New Zealand! Why? It’s cheaper than paying for a radiologist to be available in the hospital 24 hours 7 days a week!
Why should this concern you? Well for starters, how well trained is that foreign radiologist? What is the radiologist’s experience with your particular type of study? How familiar is the foreign radiologist with the English language? With the capabilities of the hospital where you are awaiting treatment? If the radiologist in India misreads your MRI and misses an obvious cerebral aneurysm which subsequently ruptures and causes your death – can you hold that foreign radiologist legally responsible here in the US? There are many more questions about this widespread, but now widely known, practice. Look to these sites for an interesting discussion of the issues:
· American College of Radiology (ACR) Guidelines
· National Law Journal (July, 2006) – registration required by access is free for 30 days
· ACR position on “Ghost Reporting”