Operational Efficiencies in Imaging Centers: Equipment and Processes

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Debra Platt, RT continued her presentation on opportunities for operational efficiencies in imaging centers by addressing the issues of equipment and processes. Great Basin Imaging is a 23,000 square foot center offering all modalities; after showing a short hidden-camera-style video of an office worker destroying a laser printer in anger, Platt waited for the audience to stop chuckling before saying, “When equipment isn’t working right, all it does is cost you money and make your staff inefficient, and number one on the list is not having your PACS and RIS integrated.”

Platt strongly recommended that every imaging center invest in an integrated RIS/PACS, stat. “Everything we do drives toward making our radiologists as efficient as possible,” she noted. “You don’t want your radiologist taking three times as long as he should to read a study because he has to use three different systems to do it.” She added that voice recognition is also a must, not only because of the money you can save on transcription but because it vastly improves turnaround time. “I’ve heard of some groups actually charging their radiologists for transcription if they won’t use VR,” she said. “That’s one way to make the change.” At Great Basin, there was no need to go to such extreme lengths—all that was necessary was switching the center’s default report structure from a narrative to a list. “The biggest advantage is you don’t have to depend on the radiologists to remember certain things in the report,” Platt said. “We haven’t had a single physician complain about this type of report. They all love it.”

Moving on, Platt issued a glowing endorsement of automated coding. “We saw a huge spike in our money coming in when we switched,” she said. She touched on other quick ways to improve efficiency: checking your IT help logs for repeated issues with equipment; using a high-quality color printer instead of a DICOM printer to print images to paper; and moving to an insured model for equipment instead of paying for OEM service contracts.

To improve processes in the imaging center, Platt’s biggest piece of advice is to ask employees: ask them what would make their jobs easier, and act based on their suggestions, she said. (Hmmmm . . . reminds me a bit of the bottom-up ethos behind Toyota Production System/Lean methodologies, which you can read more about in the next issue of Radiology Business Journal . . . just sayin’.)

Off to lunch, but I’ll be back this afternoon to report on one of the most anticipated events of this conference—the social marketing idea swap! Stay tuned . . .