We’re all being asked to do more with less these days. Turns out, with the right tools and workflows, you actually can.
Radiologists know the feeling of increased job pressure is very real. It stems, of course, from technology improvements that mean reading hundreds or thousands of images on a multiplanar and 3D display rather than a few dozen axial plane CT images. Not to mention a little thing called the move toward value-based care.
In a recent article on AuntMinnie.com, Dr. Nicolas Argy, says the solution is optimizing radiology workflow to use the skills of the entire imaging team. Argy is a healthcare consultant who practiced radiology for 30 years.
4 Ways to Optimize Radiology Workflow
- Use radiology assistants (RAs) for minor special procedures, including fluoroscopy, with an attending radiologist supervising. This has the added benefit of enhancing the skills of RAs, and Argy says a practice he spoke to saved $500,000 by implementing this change.
- Use a system similar to the current ultrasound model. Have technologists document their work, which is then used by the radiologist as a report template. Argy notes that a Boston practice has been highly successful with this: radiologists reported 80% of their studies require no dictation and no editing—they agree with the preliminary report after reviewing the images and simply sign it.
- Tap the “hidden” resource of CT and MRI technologists. Some practices are relying more heavily on their expertise, since an experienced tech can identify subtle findings while performing the study and alert the radiologist. “Working cooperatively, the CT or MRI tech can enhance the accuracy and efficiency of the interpreting radiologist,” writes Argy.
- Use RAs to scribe preliminary reports and/or protocol all CT and MRI exams. This is a case of minutes on each patient adding up to hours per day. Argy says one Boston practice he knows has RAs draft a preliminary report on every case and estimates that if it reduces each radiologist’s time by 60 seconds per report, it saves each radiologist several hours per day.
Radiology Workflow Optimization via Communication, Accessibility, & Automation
Of course, Argy stresses that these strategies are not about permitting non-radiologists to interpret exams. Rather, they are about fully extracting the valuable skills of the imaging team and building them into the daily routine. Along the same lines, facilitating those new workflows requires a high level of system sophistication to ensure clinicians can communicate easily, files are available to all (regardless of location), cases can be easily escalated, and all work is automatically tracked.
Radiology Workflow Automation
Conserus Workflow Intelligence™, a process automation tool, allows you to design and automate site-specific processes such as the ones Dr. Argy has mentioned. The radiology workflow solution works together with other healthcare IT systems exchanging data and making it usable through a sophisticated rules engine using built-in technology-based alerts, escalation reminders, communication tools and closed-loop verification to ensure nothing is missed or forgotten.
For example, in the workflows Dr. Argy mentions you could create an Over-read workflow that would alert the radiologist upon opening the study that a prelim exists, and from there the radiologist can simply create the final report to close the loop. You could create another workflow that would allow the RA to capture subtle findings quickly and efficiently so that upon opening the study the radiologist is alerted of the findings and is better prepared to read the study. Finally, for protocol verification workflow, the system could notify the radiologist that a RA has created a case to be reviewed and auto-populate a worklist so that it can be reviewed when it’s most convenient. Any changes or comments entered while the radiologist is reviewing the case would be sent to the RA to close the loop.
You can also monitor outcomes with traceability at each step. All workflows driven by Conserus Workflow Intelligence have associated trending reports to provide visibility and important insight into the process that enables you to make continual improvement.
Visit the Conserus web site to learn how the Conserus suite of solutions really does let you do more with less.