Physician Staffing Blog

Healthcare News and Trends

How COVID-19 is Impacting Radiology

April 28, 2020

How COVID-19 is Impacting Radiology

By Tom Florence, EVP at Merritt Hawkins

As seen by the significant rise in unemployment across the entire nation—with currently more than 22 million Americans filing for unemployment—COVID-19 has continued to impact a variety of industries in harsh ways. Though medical needs continue to grow, as well, certain sectors of healthcare that provide nonemergency and elective services have taken harder hits than others.


Radiologists are included in those who have seen steady decreases in volume since the coronavirus outbreak began spreading across the U.S. in early March. The American College of Radiology encouraged the rescheduling of non-urgent care, citing compliance with recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.


Additionally, the Society of Breast Imaging also recommended that individual facilities delay breast screenings as well as diagnostic studies on women who are not experiencing clinically concerning symptoms for several weeks or even a few months.


Outpatient imaging has suffered to a larger extent, while inpatient volume has remained relatively stable, according to clients of Merritt Hawkins, an AMN Healthcare company. Private groups and smaller clinics have seen 40–50% decreases in volume, leading to unexpected cuts in physician compensation, physician furloughs, and even physician layoffs.


A number of larger academic centers have also experienced decreased in volumes, as well, but they are able to handle the unfortunate effects better than the smaller private organizations. They utilize tactics such as part-time work to cut costs but still keep physicians employed, and current physicians are able to use their PTO during this time.


While many organizations have had to pause on pursuing additional radiologists for their teams, some of the larger institutions have been open to conducting virtual interviews, with the intent to hire candidates who can start in late 2020 or those who graduate in 2021.


Because of the decrease in radiology opportunities, the increase in unemployment, and the grim outlook for the immediate future, many radiologists have considered exploring new careers or have turned to seeking positions in teleradiology.


One particular demographic of individuals who are certainly facing struggles right now are 2020 fellows. The rapid spread of COVID-19 and its monumental negative impacts on the entire world came at a time when a number of these individuals were nearing the end of the interview process with potential employers and becoming excited about the bright career possibilities ahead. Instead, they now face the reality that many of those positions are no longer available.


Most Merritt Hawkins clients are maintaining optimistic attitudes and believe that patient volumes will return to normal and that there will potentially even be a significant surge once the shelter-in-place orders are lifted.


Merritt Hawkins advises healthcare organizations to take advantage of this time and fill open needs now that they are confident can be sustained later in the year. Physician start dates can be pushed to the late summer or early fall, but it is important to secure qualified candidates before they are hired elsewhere once patient volume increases again.


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