ACR Survey Indicates Key Lean Principle Being Ignored in Rush to Cut Costs

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In health care, people are quite literally the most valuable asset. For most practices, the cost of staff dwarfs nearly all other expenditures.

This means that when one must cut costs quickly in the face of shrinking reimbursement and fewer patients with employer-sponsored health insurance, cutting staff positions is the fastest way to do so.

According a poll of 424 radiologists conducted by the ACR Bulletin in April and released this month, 70 percent said their practices had laid off personnel due to budget cuts. The same percentage then reported that staff cuts have caused them to spend more time making sure the technical aspects of studies were adequate.

A key principle of Lean manufacturing is the right person doing the right job at the right time. When staff cuts are made without careful consideration of who will take over the extra work, tasks that could be completed by a less highly trained and lower paid administrative staff member may be transferred to more expensive clinical staff and M.D.s.

According to the comments the ACR Bulletin collected, this may be what is happening at some practices. It quotes survey takers as saying:

“With fewer clerical staff, more exams are slipping through the initial screening process, requiring more direct involvement from the radiologists.”

“I often have to do work that would normally fall to an assistant.”

“I more often communicate results instead of having staff do it.”

A better way to cut costs is described in our article " Lean Targeting Efficiency in Radiology" from the Radiology Business Journal .

You can download a PDF copy of the October ACR Bulletin from its website. The article begins on page 20 of the PDF.