Efficiency: The Key to Achieving Imaging Capacity
Operational efficiency is a key component to the success of any department and imaging leaders couldn’t agree more. A recent poll by Advisory Board found that efficiency ranked as the #1 priority for imaging leaders with 98% reporting that operational efficiency is “very or extremely important” to their departments’ success.
Radiology has changed over the past decade as technology has advanced to improve radiologist’s ability to quickly and accurately read images and deliver diagnoses to their patients. The faster they work, the more patients they see and the more images they need to read. To ensure they are set up for success, radiology departments need efficient processes in place. Advisory Board analyzed efficient imaging programs and uncovered key components that help maximize imaging capacity.
Create Throughput-Focused Staffing Models
Add support staff to reduce radiologist interruptions
Hiring radiology assistants streamlines workflow and removes radiologists from non-clinical work.
Account and staff for tech time supporting other departments
Collaborating with hospital departments to increase transport services reduces delays. Track tech time accurately to ensure proper staffing.
Consider adding staff to increase imaging’s daily capacity
Finding areas to increase tech staff ratio helps grow volume potential
A reduction in staff is often the first step when looking to cut costs, however it’s been proven that understaffing hinders throughput and limits capacity, negatively impacting revenue. Imaging staffing levels should be determined by imaging volumes, clinical workload and the need for non-clinical support. Additional staffing hires are justified if all staff work top-of-license, increase productivity and maximize capacity. The revenue generated from the increased efficiency offsets the added staffing costs.
Build Schedules Aligned with True Machine Capacity
Minimize scan times through adherence to standardized protocols
Refresh standardized protocols to reduce any unnecessary, redundant sequences to minimize scan time and cost. Annually review protocols and make changes as needed.
Design accurate slot times
Begin with high volume modalities for greatest impact. Work with stakeholders to review the step-by-step tasks and remove any tasks that are unnecessary. Streamline workflow by shifting non-scan duties to the tech assistant, including escorting patient from lobby, prepping patient and cleaning exam room. Review slot times annually and make changes as needed.
Ensure accurate schedules by training and supporting staff
Prepare scheduling staff to maximize capacity with one-on-one training and easy to use step-by-step scheduling standards for each modality.
Standardized protocols are the first step in reaching true machine capacity. Programs must streamline workflow including non-clinical tasks. In addition, continually manage changes to protocols and update scan slot times to maximize scheduling. Imaging programs with a dedicated scheduling staff should receive one-on-one training and set standards for each modality to maximize daily capacity.
Deploy dynamic real-time patient prioritization
Equip and empower staff to make real-time prioritization decisions
Move beyond the first in, first out mind set. Prioritize services based on appointment time, facility schedule and staff and machine availability. Consider patient factors such services required and the extensiveness of prep for the procedure to prevent tech and patient delays.
Leverage intelligent worklists to prioritize patients
Using an intelligent workflow allows imaging programs to create a single, integrated worklist across different PACS, quality tools and facilities. Intelligent worklists prioritize exam reads by specialty, hospital location, referring provider, urgency as well as other areas automating workflow and improving efficiency.
Imaging programs must prioritize patients, services and reads beyond the first in, first out mentality to maximize capacity. Implementing artificial intelligence tools helps prioritize more efficiently, but requires a substantial investment in staff, time and money
To stay competitive in the healthcare market, radiology groups must continue to invest in efficiency. As healthcare continues to transition to a value-based care environment, patients expect short wait times, the ability to schedule quickly and timely radiology results. Through proper staffing, scheduling and patient prioritization, imaging departments can become more efficient – effectively using patient time and maximizing imaging capacity.