Community hospital accelerates workflow, improves communication with RIS

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 - Brandon Groh
Brandon Groh, RTR, CT

The 25-bed Redington-Fairview General Hospital (RFGH) in Skowhegan, Maine, may be small, but it is absolutely essential to the health of its community. A critical-access hospital on the upper coast of Maine, RFGH serves a community of more than 6,000 people and completes an average 40,000 radiology studies per year. The ability of the radiology department to effectively serve its patients and facilitate communications among healthcare providers took a leap forward when it invested in a best-of-breed radiology information system.

Redington-Fairview General Hospital (RFGH) made the decision nearly six years ago to move from paper and film to a digital workflow, and that is when it acquired the Synapse RIS from FUJIFILM Medical Systems, Stamford, Conn. Radiology Director Brandon Groh, RTR, CT, offers perspective on some of the benefits his department has enjoyed since the implementation of the RIS.

“Six years ago,” Groh says, “we were doing absolutely everything on paper in our department, from patient charting to leaving notes from technologist to technologist. We are serving the third largest county in the state, and as a critical-access hospital, moving from paper and film and investing in a digital system was the logical next step for us.”

Groh has been with RFGH for 18 years, during which time the hospital has grown significantly, more than doubling its number of employees to 700 and undergoing several expansions of the physical plant, including the addition of a medical office building and a sizeable rehabilitation department.

Improved workflow, communications

When RFGH went shopping for its RIS, it also sought a PACS to complete the digital conversion. “We were looking for an integrated RIS/PACS solution,” says Groh. “After a comprehensive vendor selection process, it was Fujifilm that had what we were looking for. We have a RIS that offers us improved communications, workflow efficiencies and one where we have complete access to our data. The system was customized to our unique workflow so that we can maximize the benefits to our facility.”

The department, Groh says, has accrued significant benefits. He and his team have utilized functions within the system to manage communications within the department, including replacing the paper notes between technologists with the ability to electronically forward important information for the next shift or for the next day’s schedule.

Groh adds that adoption of the RIS has improved communications with other departments and the hospital at large, as well. “We’ve been able to create a process to eliminate ER discrepancies,” Groh notes. Synapse RIS also has the capability to broadcast bulletins to the hospital staff when necessary.

Patients also are enjoying the benefits of the communications improvements accorded by the RIS.  RFGH now relies on the system’s mammography-tracking module to generates patient reminder letters, post-exam letters and letters to the patient’s primary care physician. 

Access to data

Groh is particularly pleased with the access to department data that the system provides. He is using the Synapse RIS to run routine reports and to look for and highlight any potential billing errors by reconciling RIS data with the hospital information/billing system. When ad-hoc questions come up throughout the week, Groh relies on the Synapse RIS reporting features to find the answers.

“All the data are in our system, they are ours and we have immediate access to them,” he says. “That’s one of the things I love about the system. If I have a question, I can just jump into the database and run a query.” 

Groh reports that the RIS system has the ability, through various functionalities and reporting tools, both to serve the data needs of the radiology department and to feed data into other information systems within the hospital. He recently started using RIS data to assess throughput in the ED and plans to evaluate radiology staffing levels to better meet the needs of that department.

“We’ve started looking at throughput in the ER,” Groh explains. “We’re looking at how often we’re getting clusters of orders from the ER and how efficiently we’re processing those orders and patients, so we can minimize or eliminate delays. We’re trying to address their needs from the perspective of the data, and our RIS is helping us to do that. We’re in the process of data collection on that right now.”

As RFGH transitions to the use of an electronic health record (EHR) for patients,