Technician performing x-ray exam on patient

The Best Practices for Improving Radiology Workflow

For imaging centers and radiology departments, radiology workflow optimization matters as it affects the quality level of service delivery and is key in decreasing operational costs. Considering these points, it doesn’t hurt to do a radiology workflow analysis to review how your practice is currently operating to ensure optimal performance. This blog discusses the workflow steps in radiology and what’s needed for improving radiology workflow – keep scrolling if you’re curious to know more! 

Table of contents 

  1. What is Radiology Workflow 
  2. Workflow Steps in Radiology 
  3. Challenges in Radiology Workflow  
  4. Benefits of Radiology Workflow Optimization 
  5. Best Practices for Radiology Workflow Optimization and Management

What is Radiology Workflow

Radiology workflow encompasses a few actions which include ordering, scheduling, imaging acquisition, storage and viewing activities associated with radiology exams. However, a unique workflow challenge for radiology is that radiology departments have two separate workflows – the radiologists’ workflow and technologists’ workflow. Without integrated radiology workflow software and communication within the department, optimizing these workflows can prove to be a challenge. 

In order for patient data to be relevant for radiologists, they need to be able to access in an efficient manner as quickly as possible. While a study showed that 35% of radiologists at the University of Chicago located their patients’ clinical histories themselves, most radiologists won’t go through this effort. Gaskin said, “When we went PACS-driven to RIS-driven, one year apart, in the same six-month period, with the same number of radiologists, our exam volume actually went up.” He said their “highest level of priority had an 85%–86% improvement in turnaround time.  

Gaining access to real-time data, like from a business intelligence tool, has also shown to make significant impact on radiology workflow efficiency. One of the biggest advantages that data offers is helping you clearly define what your current state is, according to Lisa Mead, RN, MS, a quality and leadership development consultant for Crowne Healthcare Advisors. “Once you know exactly where you are, you can discuss that status in an objective nonconfrontational way and work on solutions. Finally, once you implement changes, data analysis allows you to clearly define your goal and measure whether the changes helped you achieve that goal.” 

Radiology Workflow Steps

The steps in a typical radiology workflow include:  

  • Scheduling and preparation 
  • Image acquisition 
  • Image and data Interpretation 
  • Outcomes & follow-up care 
  • Shared decision making, pathway selection & treatment 
  • Reporting & results communication 

 

Our radiology workflow diagram demonstrates the flow and parties involved. 

Diagram showing radiology workflow

While the diagram above shows the general process of the radiology workflow, there are other steps that may be performed with a RIS software resulting in a workflow that isn’t as linear as shown above. A workflow with these sub-steps would look like this: 

Diagram showing radiology workflow with ris

Radiology Workflow Challenges

Radiology presents some unique challenges that other medical disciplines don’t experience. Some of the main radiology workflow challenges are related to managing and addressing increased volume of examinations, managing multiple systems and workflows, rising costs, and balancing workloads. 

Considering these challenges, it’s no wonder that optimizing radiology workflow can be difficult as there are multiple workflows to consider. From ensuring the timely arrival of patients for their exams to sending the results back to referring physicians, the entire imaging process can be affected by delays or miscommunication.

Benefits of Radiology Workflow Optimization

1. Faster Turnaround

Eliminating or automating processes that drain time means patients receive their results even faster.

2. Patient Satisfaction

When patients receive fast turnaround for results and consistent communication, it boosts their overall satisfaction.

3. Increased Referrals

Improving radiology workflow to allow physicians to request orders on the spot, for example, eliminates manual or paper-based actions. Simplifying this order request process paves the way for increased referrals.

4. Reduced Operational Costs

Eliminating or automating redundant processes means your staff has more time for more important tasks.

Best Practices for Radiology Workflow Optimization and Management

Enhance communication with a physician portal 

A physician portal is an online portal that enables referring physicians to view patient images and data in a convenient and secure manner. 

By making use of a physician portal, physicians can reduce the amount of time spent on phone calls and sending and reviewing faxes related to patient appointments and follow-ups. Instead of making calls to receive updates on their patients’ records, physicians can access the portal to find the information they need on a web-enabled device. 

A physician portal provides physicians and their staff even more time to spend with their patients, resulting in better quality of care and patient satisfaction.

Speed up the appointment process with drag and drop functionality

Drag and drop functionality within radiology workflow software allows users to select an object and move it to another desired location.  

Radiology departments and imaging centers face a high volume of requests to complete studies. Any inefficiencies or bottlenecks within the scheduling process can affect when patients receive treatment. With the intuitive functionality of drag and drop, schedulers can book and reschedule appointments with ease. 

While creating an efficient scheduling process involves multiple steps, ensuring that this feature is available in your RIS/PACS should be pivotal in simplifying appointment scheduling and improving radiology workflow. 

Keep patients in the loop with automated appointment reminders

Automated appointment reminders notify patients of their upcoming appointments by various channels like email, text, or phone.  

Adding this automation within your radiology workflow has the power to reduce patient no-show rates – by reminding patients of their appointments in a timely manner, patients can confirm or cancel their appointments ahead of time.  

Providing this autonomy means you can minimize gaps in your schedule to avoid losing revenue and reduce the time your staff spends on outbound phone calls. According to this survey, leaders of organizations that use automated appointment reminders mentioned they saw higher revenue, lower no-show rate, and better patient compliance.

Get everyone on the same page with automated status updates in the workflow

Automated status updates within radiology software ensures everyone on your team is aware of the current state of a study.  

This alleviates the need of manually tracking patient statuses, back-and-forth communications, and paper-based work.  

Radiology workflow software designed with status-driven and dynamic worklists provides clear and up-to-date information on the tasks that need to be completed.

Simplify viewing and sharing images for patients

Patients should have the ability to share and view their own images easily. Tools and features that incorporate today’s technology offer patients this convenience, like RamSoft’s QR SNAP™. By using QR SNAP™, patients simply need to show their QR code to their healthcare provider for instant image and report sharing. 

This method of viewing and sharing patient images eliminates the costs and inconvenience of burning CDs. Patients benefit as well by not having to commute back and forth between hospitals and facilities to obtain their images.  

Effectively prioritize and assign cases with intelligent workload management

Larger scale enterprises operating complex radiology workflows involving images generated from multiple sites frequently face the challenge of ensuring the right cases are timely delivered to the appropriate radiologists for review.  

By leveraging robust scripting and AI algorithms, RamSoft’s newest radiology workflow software, OmegaAI, is a game changer for organizations looking for more automation in their environments.  The technologies utilized promote efficiencies by automating areas that traditionally have been a manual process.   

Areas such as technologist QC, workload balancing, study offload, subspecialty assignment/reassignment and intelligent routing of images.  OmegaAI sits in the center of any organization and is configured per the unique requirements of each to ensure the most effective productivity outcomes.   

Expediting the prioritization and delegation of cases translates to a quicker diagnosis and determination…and ultimately, a more positive clinical experience for the patient 

Foster clinical collaboration with integrated patient data

In complex care environments where a patient’s case may entail disparate types of information alongside their image studies (e.g., molecular tests, pathology reports, etc.), clinician teams often need to coordinate with various departments and/or facilities to gather all relevant patient data. Depending on a patient’s history, this process can be considerably time-consuming — valuable time lost towards efficient delivery of care.  

Attending physicians should have easy access to a full view of their patients’ history in order to make accurate and prompt determinations on diagnosis and treatment. An optimized radiology workflow solution that offers 360° patient records is an essential tool in bolstering collaborative communication between clinicians and streamlined patient care 

Empower informed decisions and efficient operations with real-time data

Capturing key organizational insights in real-time via a dynamic data analytics tool can help give imaging businesses a leg up in optimizing their operations, including radiology workflows.  

Real-time data analytics provide an accurate and current perspective on where the strengths as well as areas of improvement lie for the imaging business. In turn, clinical and operational teams can utilize the data to action in a timely manner accordingly, driving overall operational efficiency and improved continuity of care 

  • Patient Engagement – Radiology administrators are able to develop more targeted patient engagement efforts, thanks to predictive capabilities of patient no-shows (data insights outlining previous no-show occurrences, modality type, days between scheduling and appointments).  
  • Business Optimization & Resource Management – Equipped with the latest figures provided by data analytics, operation managers have a line of sight to patient service demands and thereby are better informed in making appropriate decisions regarding service change implementations and staff/resource allocations.  

Takeaway

Taking the time to review and optimize workflow steps in radiology requires a conscious effort to pinpoint what steps should be eliminated or fine-tuned. However, the result should be an efficient and well-thought radiology workflow that ultimately improves profitability. 

RamSoft is dedicated to designing medical imaging solutions to enhance the radiology workflow of healthcare organizations. Get in touch with our experts to learn more today. 

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