Lifestyle of the Tired, but Free

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The life of a nighthawk is not for everyone: First of all you are messing big time with the biological temporal rhythm of your species. On the other hand, a one-week on, two-weeks off schedule leaves a lot of personal time, and that doesn’t even include vacation.

That’s the schedule NightShift co-founder Mike Myers, MD, has settled into since founding the company in 2001 with Eric Trefelner, MD. Founded as a night-read company to support radiology practices, NightShift has maintained that model and appears not to be suffering, at least not from the lack of business. It celebrated reading its three millionth study at the show, just a few years after celebrating their two millionth in 2010.

Myers reports that volumes have been stable or increasing, although reimbursement per case has declined based on Medicare reductions and for competitive reasons. Nonetheless, he is optimistic about the future. “A lot of new patients are coming into the system,” he says. “I suppose we will be reading more cases for less money. I worry about the demographics, though: the aging of the population and obesity. I think there will be an explosion in demand, but I wonder if there are going to be enough radiologists. A lot of them are looking at retirement.”

NightShift has up to eight radiologists working each night, primarily generalists, with at least one MSK and neuroradiology subspecialist scheduled nightly. A homegrown reporting system based on complicated rules for routing gets the images and referring physician phone calls where they need to go; a web-based tracking and management tool allows clients to track studies in real time. Referrers are assigned one phone number and each radiologist has an extension on NightShifts VOIP phone system; a chat system allows to confer among themselves.

When asked if it gets lonely, Myers replies: “One of the concerns I had was how isolated I’d be sitting in my house all night reading studies. I probably talk more to people now than I did before: We call in all positive studies.”

Other personal work habits include sleeping in his own bed (there is no bat cave for the week he works), and during work weeks, he pulls 12-hour shifts and does little else. “I don’t try to go to the store, or run errands, or do anything like that when I am working,” he says.

Radiologists with a taste for the nightlife may want to reach out to NightShift: It is hiring two radiologists.