As the COVID-19 situation, and society’s respect for it, have developed, isolation—both self-imposed and mandated—has become an increasingly universal thing. Social media has been a great outlet for folks to remain connected with one another, including jesting and otherwise venting about coming to grips with new limitations on life.
Being a work-from-home teleradiologist, I was already used to living as a shut-in, at least 5 days out of every 7. It’s been even more than that in recent weeks, since I try to front-load as many of my weekend shifts as possible during early months of the year.
Seeing everyone’s posts on adapting to what is my status quo, I’m repeatedly reminded of an old expression: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” This isn’t quite the case here. I don’t think my friends and family are about to rally around me as a shining example of how to live for the next few weeks. Heck, if this thing stretched out for a period of months, I’m not even sure I’d be the last one to mentally crack from it. Still, I daresay my 8-plus years of living as a telerad have taught me a thing or two.
My initial inspiration for this blog entry had been that, as everyone who can work from home is being encouraged (if not forced) to do so, an awful lot of radiologists were about to get a first-hand glimpse of working via tele. (Even those who here-to-fore maintained that tele was the work of the devil.) The piece would probably have been called something like “Welcome to my world” and contained a few pointers to help folks adapt, avoid pitfalls, etc.
It, then, occurred to me that, while some rads will definitely be making this move, it’ll be far from a sweeping change. That is, I expect very few who don’t already have telerad setups in their homes to be given the option. Telerad requires a certain amount of equipment and connectivity. If you don’t have monitors with sufficient resolution, enough bandwidth with your ISP, etc., you’re, at best, going to be hobbling along, hamstrung. In some municipalities, there are actually legal/regulatory gear requirements.
Which is somewhat ironic: In the current crisis, where words like “telemedicine” and “telehealth” are making routine headlines, and just about every other specialty that doesn’t require hands-on is leveraging phones and computers for remote patient care, our specialty, which was in the vanguard of remote coverage, has little means of similarly upping its game. Most of us who can work from home, already do.
If a usually-onsite rad were to start working from home, (and didn’t already have a telerad-capable rig for covering call-shifts), he’d need to have the relevant gear shipped to him. Then, if he wasn’t particularly skilled at hooking it up—connecting all the wires properly, setting up the software—he’d need, at least, remote help if not someone onsite. Some would need an internet-connection upgrade. Finally, the rad would probably need someone to show him how to use the software and interfaces -- at least for basic functionality, if not maximum efficiency.