The article was written by Paul Dorio, MD, an interventional radiologist. In reading his article, it seemed to be directed toward two concepts. The first concept is that radiology practices need to communicate with patients more effectively and empathize more appropriately. The second concept is that efficiency, consistency, and accuracy are essential elements in radiology workflows. This really sounds familiar; it sounds like applying lean manufacturing techniques, or six sigma, to radiology. More on this in a minute.
Outlined below are the last two paragraphs of Dr. Dorio’s post:
“In my radiology group, we pride ourselves on turnaround times of less than two hours for most reports. In this manner, the requesting physician will have the findings of the patient’s study and can quickly take any necessary action for their care. Communicating important, critical findings by calling the physician is also one aspect of customer service that I (and the American College of Radiology) feel is essential to offering and delivering good service.
Overall, good customer service in the medical field comes down to good communication, empathy and understanding. It’s not that difficult. It’s just that very few physicians receive any training in their early years to foster and develop those skills. It’s time that we focus on this aspect of health care delivery for the health and satisfaction of our patients.”
As you might imagine, there were some very good comments on his blog post. If you have some time, please click on the article link above to read it all.
Getting back to the discussion, it is interesting that turnaround times (TAT) was mentioned. This sounds familiar, too.
If you go back to an article published by Imaging Economics in November/December 2000, you will find one entitled Six Sigma: Applying a Corporate Model to Radiology. Guess what topic was a part of the discussion? Yes, that is correct – TAT and:
“We found that if we had all the information that radiologists needed to make decisions at hand when the cases were presented to them, it cut down the amount of time needed to get those orders written, which reduced the patient wait time.”
Radiologists need all the patient information at the time when they need to make a decision.
Now, fast forward to 2010 again, and on the iSixSigma site, you can find an article entitled Applying Transactional Lean at Medical Imaging Firm. In their initial project scoping, the number one focus area: “report turnaround time as a key factor affecting delays and satisfaction.” TAT and patient satisfaction are tied together again!
The iSixSigma article is definitely worth the reading time. You will learn about payoff matrix, value stream mapping, time value analysis, and “trystorming.” All are great tools in applying lean techniques to radiology workflows. My favorite is “trystorming.” This is a take on brainstorming. Changing processes in health care need to be done very carefully. Trystorming is a conservative approach to implementing changes; the changes are put into a trial run so all the impacts are understood as much as possible. When the trials are successful, the changes can be put into “production” fully.
The point of this post may be, you say McDonald’s, I say Lean Manufacturing, and someone else says Six Sigma. Each get at the same goal – improving radiology workflow TAT and enhancing patient satisfaction. These approaches have been discussed for many years, and progress is still being made, although slowly and probably not widespread.
Learning more about these lean techniques may be even more important today, given all the changes in health care and radiology, so it may be worth a renewed look for many radiology groups, departments, practices, and imaging centers as the goals for efficiency and satisfaction grow more intense.
Has your radiology operations team used, or is planning to use, lean techniques to improve your workflows?