Posted: 15 May 2018 5 min. read

Technology could help transform the roles of nurses and radiologists in hospitals

By Steve Burrill, vice chairman, US Health Care Providers Leader, Deloitte LLP

I’ve been on the road (and in the air) lately visiting clients and our teams. Just last week, I was in several different cities and locations. Most of the hospital and health system leaders I meet with, however, work within the traditional four walls of the organization. Most of their employees do, too.

Historically, this model has made perfect sense—doctors, nurses, and other hospital employees need to be in the same location as their patients. Technology is beginning to change that… and likely for the better. Not only can it reduce tedious and administrative tasks of employees, but it can provide virtual options to change the location of work, and potentially provide better patient care.

The augmented workforce of the future can combine people and technology in a way that improves overall productivity, according to a new paper from Deloitte on the future of work in health care. Perhaps more importantly, technology could help to make many jobs more fulfilling. Is keeping employees happy important to hospital administrators? Absolutely!

Technology could help radiologists improve their ‘image’

Turnover among burned-out hospital-employed physicians might cost US hospitals as much as $1.7 billion a year, according to a report released last month by the National Taskforce for Humanity in Healthcare, a recently formed organization of medical professionals who are examining clinician burnout.1

Diagnostic radiology, for example, is a profession often plagued by burnout and turnover. Nearly half of surveyed radiologists report feeling burned out, according to a 2017 report from Medscape, a news service owned by WebMD. Along with a high volume of repetitive activities, some radiologists are getting paid less for their services. This can push them to work longer hours. And like other medical specialties, radiology is consolidating, which could lead to larger radiology groups that cover bigger geographic areas. As a result, radiologists could lose autonomy and see an uneven distribution of work.

How can technology help? Radiology is technological at its foundation, and it involves a high volume of repetitive activities. Faster computers, combined with software that can read medical images, could help radiologists scan more images while also boosting their accuracy and efficiency. Here are three ways technology could enhance radiology:

  1. Computer-aided detection (CAD): This technology can help radiologists quickly sift through volumes of images. CAD learns from the images it sees, giving it the ability to identify relevant imaging abnormalities. As a result, a radiologist can review images at a more efficient pace, and spend less time in a darkened room looking at glowing images. A technology-augmented radiologist might then have more time to perform complex in-house procedures such as interventional radiology.
  2. Tele-radiology: The ability to scan images remotely can help distribute interpretation work more evenly across sites and organizations with varying volume. This can lead to alternative work arrangements that suit individual radiologists.
  3. Crowdsourcing: Radiologists could provide crowdsourced interpretations of images to patients via online platforms. This new care model could provide radiologists with greater flexibility, which could help ease burnout. With new technologies and diagnostic capabilities, radiologists will likely need to learn new skills and capabilities to keep up.

Tech-enhanced nurses and the quadruple aim
Along with burnout among some physicians, many hospital administrators are also facing a short supply of nurses. This is being driven in part by a generation of retiring nurses, and a steadily declining supply of new nurses coming out of school.2 Rather than trying to figure out how to hire and retain more nurses from an ever shrinking talent pool, hospital administrators should consider ways to make the job more rewarding so that high-performing nurses look forward to coming to work. Using technology to augment nursing staff could move hospitals closer to achieving the “quadruple aim” of health care:

  • Enhance the patient experience
  • Improve the health of populations
  • Reduce the per-capita cost
  • Enhance the caregiver experience

How can technology help? While nursing isn’t as tech-dependent as radiology, there are many repetitive, time-draining tasks that could be reduced or eliminated with the help of help of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and cognitive technologies. Addressing administrative and other non-clinical tasks could give nurses an opportunity to practice at the top of their license—and spend more time with patients and their family members providing and explaining care. Here are three ways technology could enhance nursing:

  1. Automated paperwork: I'm guessing that nurses don’t find paperwork to be a fulfilling part of their job. Paperwork takes time away from the bedside, and patient care is why many nurses chose this profession. Administrative duties that involve repetitive activities could be completed with the help of technology. Software, for example, could be used to extract data from a patient’s electronic health record (EHR) and use it to pre-populate intake forms. Advanced algorithms and alerts, possibly augmented by AI, could cut the amount of time nurses spend reviewing and validating orders, sequencing complex order sets, and linking labs, medications, and treatments.
  2. Care anywhere: Some patients might respond better to treatment delivered outside of the hospital. Telehealth and digital medicine tools could extend a nurse’s reach to a patient’s home or anywhere a patient needs care. Nurses could speak directly with patients via video chat while remotely monitoring their vital signs. The same technology could also give nurses and other clinicians access to patients in remote locations. Allowing nurses to work remotely could help them conduct high-value interactions and forge strong patient relationships. This could help to reduce burnout by giving nurses flexibility about where they work, and more time to spend providing care.
  3. Digital technology: A nurse’s assessment and diagnostic abilities could be enhanced through the use of digital technology. EHR software combined with voice-recognition abilities could reduce misunderstanding, miscommunication, and time needed to manage patient records.

While technology is likely never going to replace nurses and radiologists in hospitals, it could take over some of the repetitive, rule-based tasks that they now perform. Even in my position, technology enables me to stay in constant contact with my clients, my colleagues, and my family when I’m on the road. I’m certain technology will continue to change the way we all work, although I think a robot would have a tough time keeping up with my travel schedule.

1. National Taskforce for Humanity in Healthcare, April 2018 (
2. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Strategies to Reverse the New Nursing Shortage. (


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