Helping radiologists overcome the paradox of choice

GE Healthcare

Crossroad two ways, choose the way


Americans place a high value on the freedom of choice. But what happens when we have too many options?? As we start to become overloaded, deciding between those seemingly endless options can become a burden that drains us mentally and emotionally. According to psychologist Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, "Having to make choices wears us out."[1]

For radiologists who need to make frequent, complex, high stakes decisions, it’s especially important to protect against decision fatigue by reducing or eliminating unnecessary choices. That’s because radiologist fatigue has been shown to adversely affect radiologist productivity and diagnostic accuracy by contributing to perceptual errors, performance errors and burn out.[2]

The Cost of Too Many Decisions

Decision overload doesn’t just drain us – it can also promote uncertainty and anxiety explains Schwartz.[2]  And, in today’s fast-paced, high pressure healthcare environment, that’s the last thing radiologists need. Yet, choosing which study to read next can become a decision-making task that steals both time and energy. Managing a complex worklist or worklists can be very inefficient and even anxiety-provoking. In fact, the enterprise worklist in some radiology groups can now be so large and complex that, despite detailed workflow guidelines, radiologists may legitimately fail to understand which case is the next best choice. One large radiology practice timed the choosing process and found it consumes an estimated 16 minutes of time per day per radiologist[3].

Conquer Decision Overload

This is where technology can ease the burden. Today, the most sophisticated Workload Optimization Engines use an accurate algorithm that chooses the next case based on the best interest of the enterprise. Cases are distributed based on workload complexity and required turnaround times, as well as the skillsets and availability of the workforce. With automation reliably serving up the next case to read, radiologists have extra time and increased mental energy to devote to making diagnostic decisions.   

Trusting the System

Automation only eases the decision-making burden if the radiologists trust and use the system, so overcoming decision overload is reliant on choosing a system that’s accurate and reliable. As Anthony Agbay, MD, an Interventional Radiologist, from Quantum Imaging & Therapeutics explained in a recent GE Healthcare Radiology Roundtable on building successful radiology teams[4], “It didn’t take me long to know what the system is. I trust the system and it allows me to not look at the work list anymore. I literally don't look at it. I hit sign and boom, another case comes up, and I just roll. No more list anxiety.”

Interested in learning more about how technology can address the hazards of too many decisions? Discover how GE Healthcare’s Intelligent Workload Manager, part of Edison True PACS, can ease the decision-making burden and help reduce radiologist stress.


[1] Schwartz, B., & Ward, A. (2012). Doing better but feeling worse: The paradox of choice. Positive Psychology in Practice, 86-104.
[2] American Journal of Roentgenology. 2018;210: 799-806. 10.2214/AJR.17.18613
[3] Based on internal studies by Quantum Imaging & Therapeutic Associates, Inc.
[4] Radiology Roundtable: Building successful radiology teams