Imagine someone quietly shadowing you through the work day, taking note of all the actions you took that require follow up. It would be a long list, especially if you’re a radiologist. Even for the most organized among us, keeping track of the patient and provider communications that need to take place in a single day can be overwhelming.
That’s the impetus behind today’s automated closed-loop radiology workflow systems — so sophisticated it’s like having someone at your side making sure nothing is missing or forgotten. And it’s not just about eliminating those middle-of-the-night realizations that you forgot something (although that’s certainly a benefit). It’s about reducing potential problems from communication gaps: Insurance company data suggests that communication problems are at least a causative factor in up to 80% of medical malpractice cases.
Automated radiology workflow systems close the gap by facilitating communications, alerting designated providers and/or managers when a follow-up is needed, and notifying the appropriate person until communication acknowledgment is received.
For example, the system can determine whether or not a follow-up is necessary based on codes or language used in the diagnostic report, track the case, and send an alert to the referring physician and/or support staff if a follow-up has not been scheduled in a timely fashion.
However, for an automated system to work in radiology, it must be highly flexible, allowing management to define workflow based on their own business rules, in accordance with their department policies.
For instance, should the system send an automated response when a radiologist puts a follow-up recommendation in the report but doesn’t describe it in the impressions or doesn’t use a code that matches the finding? Similarly, should the radiology staff be notified when a patient has not scheduled a needed follow-up exam? Or should it be the referring physician?
No one likes to think about making errors, but perfection is rarely achievable. Having a state-of-the-art system in place to ensure errors are quickly found and fixed and communication gaps are closed is an excellent way to raise the bar for patient care.