Radiologist Outsourcing Is Mainly a Myth

LeonhardtDavid.jpg David Leonhardt.  Source of image:


A few years ago, stories about a scary new kind of outsourcing began making the rounds.  Apparently, hospitals were starting to send their radiology work to India, where doctors who make far less than American radiologists do were reading X-rays, M.R.I.’s and CT scans.

It quickly became a signature example of how globalization was moving up the food chain, threatening not just factory and call center workers but the so-called knowledge workers who were supposed to be immune.  If radiologists and their $350,000 average salaries weren’t safe from the jobs exodus, who was?

On ABC, George Will said the outsourcing of radiology could make health care affordable again, to which Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York retorted that thousands of American radiologists would lose their jobs.  On NPR, an economist said the pay of radiologists was already suffering. At the White House, an adviser to President Bush suggested that fewer medical students would enter the field in the future.

"We’re losing radiologists," Representative Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, said on CNN while Lou Dobbs listened approvingly.  "We’re losing all kinds of white-collar jobs, all kinds of jobs in addition to manufacturing jobs, which we’re losing by the droves in my state."

But up in Boston, Frank Levy, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, realized that he still had not heard or read much about actual Indian radiologists.  Like the once elusive Snuffleupagus of Sesame Street, they were much discussed but rarely seen.  So Mr. Levy began looking.  He teamed up with two other M.I.T. researchers, Ari Goelman and Kyoung-Hee Yu, and they dug into the global radiology business.

In the end, they were able to find exactly one company in India that was reading images from American patients.  It employs three radiologists.  There may be other such radiologists scattered around India, but Mr. Levy says, "I think 20 is an overestimate."

Some exodus.


For the full story, see:

Leonhardt, David.  "Political Clout in the Age of Outsourcing."  The New York Times (Weds., April 19, 2006):  C1 & C4.

2 thoughts on “Radiologist Outsourcing Is Mainly a Myth”

  1. All of us have been laughing away in India anyway…we’ve known all along that there is only one company. The reason is that you have to be board certified to be able to read outsourced images and why would anyone want to leave a cushy 350000USD job to come back to India? Arjun had family reasons, so he came back and started his company.
    A few others work as sweat-shop agents, reading for companies that have radiologists back in the US who sign-off without looking and make the most money, while those who actually report make around 10-20USD per scan. This also seems to be going down.
    Just goes to show what hype can do.
    The same is happening with the word “Medical Tourism” in India.

  2. Can you let me know the name of the company in India that actually reads radiology images for patients in India ?

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