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Overnight Resident versus 24-hour Attending Radiologist Coverage in Academic Medical Centers

Michael A Bruno, James R Duncan, Andrew J Bierhals, Rafel Tappouni
Radiology 2018, 289 (3): 809-813
Academic medical centers have long relied on radiology residents to provide after-hours coverage, which means that they essentially function with autonomy. In this approach, attending radiologist review of resident interpretations occurs the following morning, often by subspecialist faculty. In recent years, however, this traditional coverage model in academic radiology departments has been challenged by an alternative model, the 24-hour attending radiologist coverage. Proponents of this new model seek to improve patient care after hours by increasing report accuracy and the speed with which the report is finalized. In this article, we review the traditional and the 24-hour attending radiologist coverage models. We summarize previous studies that indicate that resident overnight error rates are sufficiently low so that changing to an overnight attending model may not necessarily provide a meaningful increase in report accuracy. Whereas some centers completely replaced overnight residents, we note that most centers use a hybrid model, and overnight residents work alongside supervising attending radiologists, much as they do during the day. Even in this hybrid model, universal double reading and subspecialist final review, typical features of the traditional autonomous resident coverage model, are generally sacrificed. Because of this, changing from resident coverage to coverage by an attending radiologist that is 24 hours/day, 7 days/week may actually have detrimental effects to patient safety and quality of care provided. Changing to an overnight attending radiologist model may also have negative effects on the quality of radiology resident training, and it significantly increases cost.


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