The ins and outs of implementing a 3D lab

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If I had a nickel for every time I've contemplated opening up a 3D lab, I'd be a rich woman.

Okay, that's a lie. But more and more imaging centers are considering taking their 3D interpretations off the scanner, out of the hands of the radiologists and into a separate 3D lab staffed by specialized techs. Techs like Laura Pierce, one of this afternoon's presenters, who's been doing 3D since the mid-nineties and, as such, is well aware of the ins and outs of implementing a 3D lab.

"You probably want a 3D lab, but you've run into some barriers," Pierce said. She proceeded to outline a few of the most common barriers to implementing a 3D lab -- as well as a few insider tips for overcoming those obstacles.

Barrier: Financial

Opening a 3D lab ain't cheap: you need capital outlay for the equipment, the training, the space, the administrative demands and the IT infrastructure. Daunting.

But as Pierce was quick to point out, 3D has a separate CPT code -- and it's 85% technical, so make sure your techs are doing the work. 3D's also a great marketing tool and can increase your CT and MR referrals. Additionally, you can diversify your lab's services, offering 3D training and fellowships or doing centralized post-processing for other sites -- yours or someone else's.

Barrier: Time

3D is notorious for being time-consuming -- but it doesn't have to nuke your workflow, Pierce said. It's getting much faster as time goes on, and well trained techs can achieve rapid results.

Barrier: Usefulness

Pierce warned that many radiologists still feel they don't need 3D. But, as she put it, "It's not all about the radiologist." The other key player in this game is -- you guessed it -- the referring physician. "They're the ones that are going to be demanding this service," Pierce said. "And your surgeons will confirm the benefits and outcomes."

Barrier: Fear

It's a truth universally acknowledged that maintaining the status quo is easier than trying something new. This is certainly true of 3D. Pierce says the solution is to assign a "champion" to lobby for 3D service in your community, educating your referring physicians and training your techs. "Create a learning environment so your key players can accumulate the knowledge and allow that collaboration to occur," she said.

Okay, so it's not quite as easy as clicking your heels three times -- but it's getting easier!