How can Imaging departments stay relevant and align themselves with hospital goals? And how can workflow optimization help?

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 - Ran Rumianek
Ran Rumianek

If radiology departments want to stay relevant and thrive in the U.S. healthcare industry’s shift from volume-to-value, they need to clearly demonstrate their contribution to the organization’s overall success. Imaging continues to play a critical role across the patient care continuum, and as hospitals redefine their own benchmarks, imaging departments must also find new ways to prove their value. “Outcomes and value are the new drivers in today’s market,” says Ran Rumianek, Executive Director of Workflow at McKesson Imaging and Workflow Solutions. “To adapt, radiologists need solutions that help them manage their processes more intelligently and more efficiently.”

In a volume-based model, the main factor driving radiology operations was productivity. While it’s still a key driver, it must now be accompanied by many other things, like quality improvements, better outcomes, patient satisfaction and reduced costs.

This transformation is easier to talk about in theory than to put into practice, especially when many financial incentives are still tied to volume. For radiology, adapting to this new reality means implementing new processes, new workflows and new technologies.  

Rumianek, who leads product development for Conserus Workflow Intelligence, a software rules engine that orchestrates and automates imaging workflows expounded on these and other workflow-related themes in a recent interview with imagingBiz.

What do you see as the most pressing challenge facing radiology today?

Rumianek: What we see in radiology departments at many of our customer sites is their challenge to stay relevant and demonstrate their contribution to overall hospital goals. In their new environment, radiology is often viewed as a cost center instead of a profit center. The hospital wants to get the most out of each imaging study performed, while still driving down costs. 

To show value in this context, an imaging department needs to adjust its clinical operations to make workflows more streamlined and efficient than ever. One of the challenges radiologists have is that most of their tools - mainly the PACS - were designed to meet their “old world” challenge of reading more studies faster.

In a value-based world, they need tools that let them collaborate and communicate with other departments and care providers. They need the ability to prioritize their reading so the most urgent cases are read first by the most qualified sub-specialist.  They need consistent quality processes and they need clear visibility into their operations so they know where they can improve and where they are bringing quantifiable value to the hospital. 

Are there particular areas or pain points that are common to many healthcare organizations?

Many hospitals look at improving their ED flow as a critical goal. This area is often a bottleneck that impacts patient satisfaction, bed turnover, patient outcomes etc. Imaging plays a significant role in supporting ED operations, with a steadily growing volume of advanced imaging studies. Timely management of imaging for this area can have a positive impact on patient care and flow, whereas delayed or sub-optimal diagnosis adds time, costs and may compromise patient outcomes.  Imaging departments that can optimize service to this area can demonstrate value in both interpretation quality and turnaround times.

One of our customers had a scenario where every case coming to radiology from the ED was marked “STAT” and it was extremely difficult for them to distinguish the truly important cases. In addition they didn’t have good visibility on their turnaround times. We worked with this customer to help them define and automate their prioritization rules; we helped them build a model that assessed each study coming from the ED and dynamically assigned it a priority. The results of this workflow orchestration were surprising even to us - they measured their turnaround times before and after implementing the automation, and were able to reduce them by up to 50 percent.

Now that they have a system in place, and a tool to measure it, they’re also able to adjust the prioritization model to make even more improvements. Since all the data can be measured, it’s much easier for them to see the impact of any changes they make from this point forward.

One of the areas where workflow challenges frequently appear is in quality workflows. How can departments use workflow orchestration technology to implement more robust quality practices?