Leave No Referrers Behind

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Christine Boehms HawkinsThe first of a three-part post on ensuring a smooth transition for your referring clinician customer base to a new radiology portal There are several considerations to make when selecting and deploying a new radiology portal as part of your new RIS/PACS implementation. The key is to think about your customer, the referring clinician located at the hospital or group practice, at the beginning of the process. In a series of posts, I will touch on best practices for ensuring a smooth transition so that you do not lose any of your customers. Instead, you will use this launch as an opportunity to get more referrers set up on your portal than ever before. Depending on the vendor solution selected, your radiology portal may be part of your RIS, PACS, or a stand-alone software product. Radiology portal features for the most part include the same core functionality. A radiology portal is a web application that enables a referring clinician to view radiology results including the report and acquired images. User access is password protected, usually encrypted. Some portals require users to download a software application, some don’t. An e-mail notice will be sent to the clinician to let them know a report is ready for viewing. The clinician clicks on the link, enters the user name and password and views the report. Sometimes the key images, or full set of images associated with the study are available to view as well. The report can be downloaded or printed. The imaging provider may develop an interface or provide some other type of secure access to get the reports into a clinicians’ system, such as an EHR. The benefit to the referring clinician is immediate access to the radiology results. Additionally if the portal allows other consulting clinicians to access the study, it makes it easy for the referring clinician to collaborate with colleagues. This leads to faster diagnosis and improved patient care. If the referring population is happy, they will continue to send the imaging provider patients. The benefit to the imaging facility is elimination/reduction of the time and cost associated with report faxing and mailing, as well as the elimination of mailing or delivering a CD with images. As with any system change there are obstacles to gaining broad user adoption, and in the case of a radiology portal, these challenges can include:
  • Clinicians have older computers/laptops that may not be compatible with the vendor’s software or browser requirements.
  • Clinicians cannot remember their portal username/password, or do not have the technical background to start using a web portal for viewing reports.
  • Clinicians don’t like to change. Some will still want reports to be mailed or faxed, and hard copy images delivered.
Not all clinicians adopt technology at the same rate. If you still have some clinicians who are not utilizing your existing portal, now is the perfect opportunity to go back to them and present the new portal, which likely has improved features and usability over your existing one. Some clinicians may require more assistance and education than others. If you can at least ensure that the referrers who are responsible for generating the majority of your imaging volume utilize your new portal, you will be successful. Proactive communication and good planning and preparation across all the key steps, such as: system selection, implementation, training, follow-up and marketing, should help you ensure a smooth transition. Selection Your marketing/clinician liaison team should be involved in the RIS/PACS/Portal demonstration, selection and implementation process. They are often left out of this until the system is installed, and then have to quickly get up to speed. Their input is very valuable, as they will consider the feature, service, and installation requirements from the referring population’s viewpoint. In an imaging center environment the marketing/clinician liaison team will be responsible for communicating the features, benefits, and set-up steps to referrers and conducting the training, and often providing technical support – referrers call them first with issues. In a hospital setting, these responsibilities are typically shared. Usually the radiology department administrator communicates the new portal deployment schedule and its features and the RIS/PACS manager or IT staff will be responsible for training and providing technical support for referring clinicians. This team should be involved in the requirements development, demonstration, and ultimately have input on the vendor/product decision. Your customers’ (referring clinicians and patients) needs are extremely important and should always be considered when deploying a new service or software product that affects them. Key factors to consider from the referring clinician perspective when selecting a new radiology portal:
  • Software / Browser Requirements – Do your clinicians have computers/laptops in place that can run the software?
  • Application Installation – Does it require the clinician to download an application onto their desktop?
  • Workflow/Features – How does the portal notify the clinician that the report is ready? Is there a way for the clinician to check the status of a report? How is the patient worklist managed? Are key images or the full study accessible, and are there image manipulation tools? Can reports be downloaded and printed? Can you brand the portal user interface with your own logo?
  • Old System Database Access – Will you or your new vendor be able to access username and passwords from your old RIS/PACS/Portal in order to load these into your new system? If they are encrypted, this might not be possible. How will you upload clinician contact info from your old system? Will a data migration be conducted?
  • Security – What level of security is in place to manage user access and report distribution? Are certain areas of a portal accessible only by the clinician user, or others in his/her practice as well?
  • Username / Password Administration – How does this work, who has to manage this, how are changes handled? Is it possible for the clinician to invite a colleague to the portal to view the report/images for a consultation?
  • Usability – Is the web application intuitive, or does it require a lot of training, are there online help tools?
  • Report Integration – What methods are available if you want to get reports into clinician systems, such as an EHR?
  • Implementation – How will your vendor handle the loading of your clinician contact information into the portal – is this automatically pulled from the RIS or uploaded from a spreadsheet? How do they recommend getting new username and passwords set up in the new portal for all of your clinicians? Are they planning to help with this effort, or is it up to your staff?
  • Vendor Training Guide – Does the vendor provide a portal training guide or a quick reference guide specifically for referring clinicians, or is this up to you to develop? How much help can they provide with this task? If they do provide training tools, can you brand them with your facility’s information?
Depending on the portal’s ease of installation, access and usability for referring clinicians, your marketing team may have a great transition experience, or a challenging one. Your end result may be increasing user adoption, or losing referrers. Next: Vendor implementation and advance communications. Read Part Two Implementation, and the Advance Guard Read Part Three Training: The Portal Success Insurance Policy Christine Boehm Hawkins, is president, Jump Start Consulting, a full-service marketing consulting firm specializing in the health care/imaging industry; chawkins@jumpstartb2b.com: follow on Twitter@ChristyJHawkins