RIS upgrade helps physician-owned practice fix disruptive scheduling woes

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 - Travis Hawkins
Travis Haskins

Southwest Diagnostic Imaging (SDI), a large physician-owned practice in Phoenix, employs 130 radiologists who provide imaging services at 34 locations. Front desk employees are vital to any provider with that many moving parts, so when SDI started to experience significant workflow issues and administrative duties started consuming too much time, it was something management wanted to nip in the bud as fast as possible.

“Our front desk staff were all pretty slammed,” says Travis Haskins, SDI’s chief information officer. “We knew they couldn’t take on anything else. We needed something that could help alleviate those strains.”

The primary culprit for these issues was the practice’s aging RIS, which had been installed back in 2001 when Haskins—now a veteran of the organization—was still a bright-eyed new hire. A change was clearly in order, so SDI began its search for a new RIS in 2014. After a lengthy search, the company decided to team with FUJIFILM Medical Systems U.S.A. and install its popular Synapse RIS.

Why Fujifilm? SDI’s stated goal is to only work with vendors that “offer scalable solutions and a forward vision for future product development” and the practice loved both Fujifilm and its ability to see the big picture. Haskins explains that the company differentiated itself by conveying a thorough vision of the future. “Fujifilm knew where things were going and what their solutions could do,” he says. “We often say that we don’t form vendor relationships based on just the products as they are today—we also base them on the vendor itself. It’s about having trust in the vendor.”

Haskins recalls that his team’s trust in Fujifilm was established early on in the selection process, when the vendor displayed its eagerness to accommodate every last one of SDI’s requests. For instance, one thing SDI did not like about its legacy system was its inability to interface other programs into the RIS. “We do payment estimation, and we wanted to be able to plug those numbers into the RIS,” Haskins says. “With our legacy RIS system, we could not do that—and when we had a discussion about that with the vendor, they said it was a path they didn’t want to go down. When we had the discussion with Fujifilm, they said ‘yes’ right away. So it was a great vendor relationship from the start.”

Enjoying the upgrade

SDI implemented Synapse RIS in August 2017, and Haskins says the entire team is thrilled with the new solution. For starters, he says, scheduling is much easier now thanks to its drag-and-drop scheduling and Kiosk software, which allows patients to check in to appointments, fill out paperwork and sign documents with convenient, easy-to-use tablets.

Haskins notes that the practice had tried a Kiosk-like system once before on its legacy RIS, hoping to automate much of the check-in process, but it didn’t go as planned and ended up frustrating employees more than assisting them. This time, though, he says “front desk employees are thrilled with Kiosk,” calling it a “game-changer” for the practice.

“Employees who were here before Fujifilm will schedule an exam and then they actually get confused because it seems too easy now,” Haskins says, laughing at how strange it sounds to describe a complex radiology solution in this way. “They go back and think they must have missed a step, because it went by so fast. But it’s actually just the new RIS doing exactly what we wanted it to do.”

SDI’s front desk employees are enjoying many other benefits of the new RIS as well. Its patient portal, for instance, allows patients to request studies, confirm appointments and access their own imaging results. The more patients can do from the luxury of their own homes, the more time SDI employees have to work on other pressing issues.

Of course, it’s not just office employees and patients who can now take advantage of SDI’s newest solution. Synapse RIS also includes features that radiologists (dose management tools), referring physicians (online request options) and business managers (inventory tracking) are using to make their workdays more efficient and less chaotic.

Exemplary customer service

Customer service plays a big role in the story of SDI and Fujifilm’s relationship. Implementing Synapse RIS has allowed the practice to spend more time doing what it does best—providing high-quality care and earning the trust of each patient that visits one of its many locations—and SDI has nothing but positive things to say about the service it has received from Fujifilm.

Synapse RIS was rolled out to 28 imaging centers and more than 800 employees on that first day in August, and Haskins says it was an incredibly smooth transition. Leading up to the install, Fujifilm arranged numerous site visits, presented “product demo after product demo with smiles on their faces” and answered every question that came up.

“I have a lot of respect for Fujifilm’s representatives,” Haskins says. “A lot of times, it seems like when you actually sign a contract, the vendor relationship changes—like they don’t care once the deal is final. But with Fujifilm, everyone has stayed engaged throughout this entire process. They’re making sure issues are addressed in a timely manner and they have always taken care of us.”

The implementation of Fujifilm’s Synapse RIS shows what a colossal difference a new solution—and a new vendor relationship—can make for a practice. Front desk employees at SDI have gone from slammed to satisfied, overworked to rejuvenated. The people that benefit the most, though? The more than 2 million patients treated by SDI annually.