Public Release: 

Nighthawks -- Convenience or necessity?

American College of Radiology

Convenience, value for recruiting, and efficiency were named as key factors in radiologists' use of "nighthawk" services according to a recent study.

"Nighthawk" services are defined as after hours/overnight teleradiology services. According to the study, 300 hospitals were randomly selected from the American Hospital Association Directory of Hospitals. These hospitals were contacted with a survey that consisted of 59 questions related to motivation, demographics, and selection of nighthawk services, financial arrangements and level of training.

Of those 300 hospitals, 115 (38.3%), including 63 practices that use an external nighthawk service, responded. Most practices gave convenience as the most important reason for using a nighthawk service, said Adam Kaye, a medical student at Yale University and lead author of the study. The second most important reason was the value for recruiting. The study also mentioned that excessive volume was a common motivation.

Of the hospitals that participated in the study, 51% of practices said that they obtain between 1%-5% of their reads from the nighthawk service and 22% said that they receive less than 1%. The study also showed that 25 of the 63 practices surveyed (about 40%), utilized a nighthawk service located internationally. Of these, 40% did not know the proportion of foreigners or Americans reading films. Another 56% said that the radiologists reading internationally were either all American or mostly Americans, and one practice said that it was about 50% Americans.

"While the results of this study may not have direct impact on patient care, knowledge of the utilization of after-hours teleradiology services may provide important information regarding both the current state and the future of such services," said Mr. Kaye. "Hopefully we can use the information from our study as a basis for future, similar studies to document the progression of this relatively new and somewhat controversial topic," he said.

The full results of this study will be presented on Tuesday, May 8, 2007 during the American Roentgen Ray Society's annual meeting in Orlando, FL.

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