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Radiologist doing an MRI

3 Ways to Reduce Patient Turnaround Time and Improve Care Quality in Radiology Departments

Published on 5/20/2019

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

Whether it’s using an app to pre-order our morning coffee or ordering groceries online to avoid going to the store, we strive to be more efficient in every area of our lives. The same is true when it comes to health care. With patient-centered care and real-time innovation more important than ever, radiology departments must focus on creating better health care experiences and outcomes. 

One area ripe for potential improvement is the time intervals from submission of a process to the completion of that process—also known as turnaround times. Excessive wait times, whether for an appointment, the results of reports or anything in between, can have a negative impact on the overall patient experience, ultimately tarnishing a radiology department’s reputation.

It’s clear that the modern health care consumer expects convenience. Thirty percent of patients who face long wait times leave before seeing the physician and 20% will change providers altogether following a lengthy wait. There is also a strong correlation between wait times and patient satisfaction scores. 

In the transition to a value-based care model, providers are taking notice of the negative impacts of extended turnaround times. Nearly half of health care organizations have adjusted their processes to improve patient wait times, while 22% of organizations are in the process of improving practice flow to reduce patient wait times.

So, what are some practical strategies that radiology teams can implement to increase throughput and provide better care? Here are a few to consider: 

1. Hone in on operations:
To avoid care delays, radiology teams must ensure that everything is planned and prepared for on both the patient and provider sides. Thorough communication about pre-appointment procedures is key. For example, if the patient hasn’t fasted before an exam or hasn’t taken the medicine they should have, they won’t be able to receive their scheduled care. This not only upsets the patient—and potentially puts their health at risk—but it also has a direct negative impact on revenue as medical equipment is sitting unused. 

We all know that health care can be unpredictable, so setting rooms and equipment aside for unexpected incidents is a way to empower the care team in keeping scheduled patients on track. A radiology solution that can streamline and prioritize imaging workflows within the EHR is also essential to creating clinical and operational excellence. 

2. Embrace new technology: Artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled solutions can help eliminate mundane and time-consuming tasks that often slow down care delivery. Software that can read medical images and written health records supports radiologists in working faster and more accurately. Radiology departments can develop a comprehensive approach to operations management within the EHR with a unified radiology information system and picture archiving communication system. These types of systems provide the necessary workflows to support the entire department and create a single source of truth from registration through results/image distribution. By automating many of the core processes of the radiology department, management and clinician time is freed up to focus on the care that matters most versus data entry.  

3. Facilitate interoperability: When interoperability is leveraged to create a connected world, everyone thrives, especially the patient. Health care professionals can provide better care by having access to the patient’s entire medical history including the diagnostic output from radiology exams (reports and images). More importantly, this takes the burden, of having to carry physical copies of medical records (think of the imaging CDs that are still the most prominent form of exchanging radiology images) from doctor’s office to doctor’s office, off patients.   

Technology has allowed us to make so many parts of our daily lives seamless, and the same should apply when it comes to our health and care. If we can get a driver to pick us up in minutes with the tap of a button on our phones, patients shouldn’t have to wait a week to get important information about their health or sit in a waiting room for hours to see a provider. 

There’s no doubt that health care is too important to stay the same. Accelerating the speed of care while still maintaining a high quality of service, enhancing the patient experience and improving the work life of clinicians should be a top priority for every radiology department. 

Cerner’s radiology solutions allow you to expand your current EHR to incorporate the power of clinical information into your imaging workflows. Learn more