Variables Influencing Radiology Volume Recovery During the Next Phase of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic

J Am Coll Radiol. 2020 Jul;17(7):855-864. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2020.05.026. Epub 2020 Jun 1.


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has reduced radiology volumes across the country as providers have decreased elective care to minimize the spread of infection and free up health care delivery system capacity. After the stay-at-home order was issued in our county, imaging volumes at our institution decreased to approximately 46% of baseline volumes, similar to the experience of other radiology practices. Given the substantial differences in severity and timing of the disease in different geographic regions, estimating resumption of radiology volumes will be one of the next major challenges for radiology practices. We hypothesize that there are six major variables that will likely predict radiology volumes: (1) severity of disease in the local region, including potential subsequent "waves" of infection; (2) lifting of government social distancing restrictions; (3) patient concern regarding risk of leaving home and entering imaging facilities; (4) management of pent-up demand for imaging delayed during the acute phase of the pandemic, including institutional capacity; (5) impact of the economic downturn on health insurance and ability to pay for imaging; and (6) radiology practice profile reflecting amount of elective imaging performed, including type of patients seen by the radiology practice such as emergency, inpatient, outpatient mix and subspecialty types. We encourage radiology practice leaders to use these and other relevant variables to plan for the coming weeks and to work collaboratively with local health system and governmental leaders to help ensure that needed patient care is restored as quickly as the environment will safely permit.

Keywords: COVID-19; utilization; volumes.

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Patient-to-Professional / prevention & control
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control
  • Practice Management, Medical / organization & administration*
  • Radiology Department, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Workload*

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2