Volume and HCAHPS Scores Up, Leakage Down: St. Joseph’s Candler’s MRI Choice Made the Difference

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 - St. Joseph’s Candler Hospital
Jonathan Nelson, CT/MR Technologist and Cheryl Rawlings, Imaging Manager.

In the MRI suite at St. Joseph’s Candler Hospital in Savannah, Ga., the numbers add up to a quantifiable success story. Monthly scan counts are up by as many as 150 per month. Business has increased 16.5 percent over the previous year. And back-outs—instances where fearful patients decline to go through with a scan—have plummeted from as many as two per day to just two over the past six months.

What accounts for the sterling performance? Imaging manager Cheryl Rawlings and registered CT/MR technologist Jonathan Nelson answer by pointing to the confluence of three key contributing factors: the entire imaging team’s unfailing dedication to genuinely compassionate patient care, MR technologists’ beefed-up technical skill sets and, most dramatically, the April 2016 replacement of a legacy MR system with Echelon Oval.

The latter is Hitachi’s large-bore scanner that delivers crisp whole-body images and state-of-the-art clinical capabilities at 1.5T. The system incorporates workflow features to streamline all relevant tasks and processes, from patient prep to acquisition planning and from image acquisition to post-processing.

A big bore of the best kind

The installation also included a suite makeover complete with ambient lighting and patient-sensitive air circulation. But, Rawlings and Nelson agree between them, it’s the size of the bore—at 74 cm in bore width, the widest MRI system available—and the uncompromised quality of the images that have gone furthest in making Candler’s MRI capabilities the talk of the town.

“We have a lot of competition for MR, especially from neurology and orthopedic practices in town and freestanding MR facilities in the area,” says Rawlings, adding that Candler’s MR caseload is 75% to 80% outpatient. “Now we’re working to build our vascular business as well, and a big part of why we’re doing so well with referrals is that claustrophobic patients don’t leave and larger patients are accommodated.”

In fact, the Oval’s table can support patients up to 550 pounds. “We had been sending those larger patients to a different site,” says Rawlings, “and the images weren’t anywhere near the quality we’re getting from the Hitachi.”

One good system deserves another  

When the Candler MR team went shopping for a new system, Hitachi already had something of a leg up even though the hospital had been true to another imaging vendor for many years. The advantage came in the form of Candler’s high satisfaction with the quality, service and support they had experienced with the Hitachi Scenaria CT system they installed in 2015.

“Another reason we chose the Echelon Oval was the software. Hitachi gives you all upgrades as soon as they become available,” says Nelson. “And the applications training and support over the months since the go-live has been outstanding, just as with the CT. We can call Hitachi applications people directly, or we can call the helpdesk. Either way, you talk to a person. You don’t get a prompt for automated responses.”

Nelson also likes that Hitachi has staff dedicated to making sure customers have all the help they need to stay accredited with the American College of Radiology.

Volume up, leakage down

When it comes to building volume while warding off leakage of patients to other imaging providers, Rawlings and Nelson suggest, Echelon Oval’s unique coil solutions allow the machine to perform like several scanners in one.

“Because we are in a hospital setting, a lot of the patients can’t do exactly what you need them to do in a cookie-cutter way,” Nelson says. “With the way the integrated coils are configured, there’s leeway to have some creative thinking by the technologists to actually get an exam done.”

He says he’s used the coils to image a painful foot without having to use a dedicated boot coil as well as the shoulder of a 435-pound shoulder patient who didn’t fit in the standard shoulder coil. “I was able to get it done using the integrated coils and the flexible extremity coil,” Nelson says.

The unique array of coils also allows for breast imaging of larger patients, which, Rawlings points out, is another business-builder.

“We’re affiliated with a cancer center, and we have some breast surgeons at our back door,” she says. “So that was one of our main focuses when we compared MRs from different vendors. We were able to go and look at the breast center and see that we could get larger breast patients into this scanner. That was a huge factor for us.”

Patients first

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