Streamlined radiologist study comparison reading workflow can improve productivity, clinical confidence, and customer service.
By Ben Panter
Today, radiologists face declining reimbursement demands for rapid report turnaround time, increasing study complexity and numbers of priors—all the while trying to improve communication with referring clinicians to differentiate their practice. While sometimes it seems like the only solution is working longer hours, streamlined study comparison workflow can drive significant benefits for productivity, clinical confidence and, critically as we defend radiology’s share in value based medicine, referrer satisfaction.
The ubiquity of picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) and connected clinical IT systems make ready access to prior imaging studies more likely. While the additional information can increase clinical confidence, it also places a burden on radiologists, as most studies with comparisons take longer to read. This can be particularly challenging for high RVU studies that are further complicated by prior comparisons, but whose RVU, and therefore reimbursement, does not change with the existence of prior studies. The dramatic growth in programs such as CT lung cancer screening, requiring complex interpretation of numerous prior images, only makes this issue more acute.
Improve Quality and Productivity
Serial imaging studies that involve assessing the effectiveness of therapeutic and surgical interventions can take significant time for a radiologist to read. The acute need for radiologist to meet productivity goals and maximize clinical quality contributions creates incentive for them to leverage primary reading tools that minimize setup and review of these serial imaging studies. Time saved in this process can enable greater focus on clinical decision-making and customer services, while minimizing the impact on productivity. With reimbursement trending downward, radiologists must streamline the reading of complex imaging studies, particularly the increasing numbers that include serial comparisons.
Enhance Collaboration and Communication
The Imaging 3.0 initiative for radiology, driven by the American College of Radiology (ACR), encourages radiologists to increase their clinical quality contributions and find new opportunities to deliver value through greater collaboration with subspecialty physicians and their patients.
The ability to quickly integrate findings from serial, multi-modality imaging studies, with a radiologist’s clinical knowledge is essential to ensure optimal clinical value and efficient and timely information exchange. The benefits are amplified for complex cases requiring care coordination among subspecialty teams, such as cancer treatment and stroke rehabilitation.
While most PACS and enterprise clinical image viewers include the ability to manually synchronize slice viewing across these serial imaging studies, multi-study image synchronization that includes localization of anatomy across different imaging studies, is not broadly available. Such a primary study reading workflow enhancement to PACS would help achieve many of the previously discussed benefits. Blackford Analysis has addressed this challenge by delivering capability that can speed and simplify the presentation and communication of changes in serial imaging findings, thus enabling clinicians to spend more time interacting with patients and less time searching for appropriate images to show them.
Benefits Beyond Radiology
Streamlined study comparison can contribute to a department’s embrace of value-based imaging concepts while benefiting the entire healthcare enterprise in several meaningful ways:
- Improved clinical collaboration and consultation
- Increased referrals
- Enhanced productivity for high RVU studies.
As the prevalence of prior imaging studies increases, so too will the scrutiny over appropriate and unnecessary imaging. Nonetheless, productivity demands on physicians will continue to increase. These challenges require healthcare leaders to find clinical IT solutions that speed review and understanding of large quantities of information. The challenge of simultaneously optimizing staff productivity, customer service and quality of care can be addressed with the right systems and processes in place.
Ben Panter is CEO of Blackford Analysis.