Want to know how to create a more cost-effective imaging practice without skimping on patient care and making your staff miserable? Well, a good way to start is by identifying your bottlenecks and having a good reporting system to help you pinpoint areas of slow turnaround times. This way you’ll be able to see what changes will benefit your facility. Based on the many issues I’ve seen when conducting workflow analyses, I’ve highlighted a few changes essential to creating a more cost-effective imaging practice, happy staff, and a more efficient patient care system.
Interfaces are Important
Interfaces are the key to cutting costs, streamlining patient care, and creating a system that results in happy staff and referrers. I’m not saying this because I’m an integration specialist, I’m saying this because it’s true. Tally-up what you’re paying your front desk staff, technologists, billing/eligibility staff, transcriptionists, and radiologists to input identical data into each system by the hour. I’m sure you’ll find that paying for interfaces to connect your disparate systems is well worth the investment. Doing so will save you time, money, and reduce data related errors.
I also highly recommend interfacing with your top referrers’ EHRs to offer them the ability to receive reports directly into their patient’s chart. You may also have an option for a shared medical record portal in your region that many of your referrers are a part of. With a shared medical record portal, you can send reports to all referrers at once, instead of sending them individually. This means less calls from angry referrers missing reports to help to ease tensions for your staff. Menial tasks can lead to a loss of interest for a person in their job, so automating certain processes can create a happier work environment.
Do your technologists have to re-enter patient information because your scheduling system can’t provide a modality worklist (MWL)? I often end up as Eric or Ernie Martian instead of Erin Martin, because technologists are hurried and trying to gather other information that’s more important to them on my patient history than the spelling of my name. Please, if nothing else, invest in an interface for MWL. This is something your patients and technologists will love you for.
Patient reminders and confirmations are two more tasks that can be automated. They free up staff to take calls, schedule appointments, verify eligibility, and complete pre-appointment collections; which ultimately, prevents a patient’s balance to grow, without being paid.
Referring Physician & Patient Portals
Maybe there’s no need to provide interfaces to your referrers or a shared medical record portal, as your RIS/PACS vendor already offers one where referrers and patients can log in to obtain the info they need. You may even be able to stop faxing your referrers and burning CDs if the portal offers reports and images that can be viewed on-demand.
Review Your Patient Flow
When’s the last time you were seen for an appointment at your facility and went through the entire gambit of calling to schedule to walking out? Often reviewing how a patient goes through your imaging center from their point of view can be an eye-opener. Track where the patients and staff have to go. Track the number of steps for patients and staff. You may uncover unnecessary steps, and worse yet, you may find you have to double back instead of continuing in a forward direction. I heard a great TED Talk on the TED Radio Hour, outlining how a hospital actually used tape to track where the oncology patients had to go. They found a lot of overlapping with the tape they lined the walls with. Not only did they streamline patient care in the end, but they improved patient care and internal processes.
I’ve only touched on a small part of how you can run a more cost-effective imaging practice. To obtain a more thorough understanding of how you can make improvements, you should conduct a complete workflow analysis. You can perform this on your own or enlist in an external workflow professional. The smallest changes from when or how eligibility is done to equipping your radiologists with everything they need can have a huge impact, so much so, you’ll have money in the budget to open an addition cost-effective imaging practice in no time.