The team at OGH Imaging LLC, Grand Coteau, La, faces a daunting task every day: living up to the expectations of both OGH’s hospital and physician investors while managing approximately 70 patient studies a day across eight modalities (MRI, 16-slice CT, ultrasound, DR, digital mammography, fluoroscopy, bone densitometry, and calcium scoring). Employing just six technologists—or seven, on the frequent occasions when David Rushing, center manager, steps in to help—OGH optimizes productivity, in a health care environment that’s increasingly focused on the bottom line, by maximizing staff cooperation, even while minimizing staffing.
Rushing explains that OGH Imaging was born out of a 2003 partnership between Opelousas General Health System, Opelousas, La, and four radiologists wishing to separate from the hospital and begin their own ambulatory service center. The partners jointly invested in OGH Imaging, and the new business opened its doors in December 2005.
“The hospital initially missed the opportunity to invest jointly with some of its physicians, and when they saw their error, they used OGH Imaging as a way to reach out to the radiologists and invest with them.”
— David Rushing, manager, OGH Imaging, Grand Coteau, La
Though the idea for a new outpatient imaging center came before the DRA was even on the books, by the time OGH Imaging opened, the radiology industry was quaking in the face of drastically reduced reimbursement. Some might have seen this as a sign that the business was doomed from the start, but to Rushing, it was a fortuitous opportunity. His team would learn to operate in a worst-case scenario, and things could only improve from there.
“The DRA was nothing new to us, so we really didn’t have to make any drastic changes,” Rushing says. “Our staffing was already cut to the bone. There was no room to cut jobs or cut back hours, so instead, we concentrated most on getting more volume into the center. If we’re doing everything right, we’re getting the most out of every procedure we perform.”
Customer Service Counts
Rushing’s used to hitting the ground running. Before Opelousas General Health System brought him in to oversee MRI operations at the hospital in 1999, he worked in the mobile MRI environment, setting up new customer accounts and building rural centers’ MRI referrals until they had enough volume to bring in their own MRI machines. “I’ve got a lot of experience working in customer service to build volume,” he says.
After leaving Opelousas General to run OGH Imaging, Rushing found himself wearing more hats than ever before. He says, “We have a management company that I answer to as the manager of the center, and now that I work with them directly, I’m overseeing a few other centers around the country, as well as this one here.” What does that mean, in day-to-day terms? “It seems like the paperwork is neverending,” he says, “with accreditation, making sure everyone stays up on their licensing, and paying the bills.”
Then, there are those tasks that are aimed at building the kind of volume that a center needs to stay out of the red. “I do public-relations work and marketing as well,” Rushing says. “I make it part of my job to get out there and meet any new doctors in the community. We do everything we can to expose the center; we go to symposia in the area, and we’ve given PowerPoint presentations. Whenever we have the opportunity to educate the community about our services, we take it.”
Customer service is also important, and here, yet again, OGH’s small staff is more of an asset than a liability, Rushing says. “We portray ourselves as having a really personal kind of atmosphere,” he says. “We try to recognize patients by name, and we open ourselves up to them in a way that’s really different from what you would typically encounter in a hospital environment. We kill them with kindness, and we finish with a timely report—and we follow up to make sure the referring physicians are getting everything they need.”
All the volume in the world is useless, though, if your team can’t manage it. Operating continually with a skeleton staff, Rushing has had to put his money where his mouth is where productivity is concerned. “I do offer assistance in the technologists’ work whenever I can, especially on busy days. I jump in so that people can be freed up for their lunch breaks and so on,” he says.
Driving productivity is crucial, and Rushing