How do radiology practices deal with an increasing workload without boosting staffing levels? It's an industry-wide trend due to lower reimbursement levels and greater technological capabilities, according to an article in Diagnostic Imaging, which means radiology practices are under pressure to be more efficient.
Optimizing productivity while improving quality is the challenge, said David R. Phelps, M.D., president of Radiology Associates of North Texas, who added that radiology practices are doing so by leveraging both manpower and technology.
One way in which practices are dealing with staffing issues, according to the article, is to use hard data to determine hiring and scheduling needs. For instance, David Marichal, chief technology officer of Radiology and Imaging Specialists in Florida, said that his group took advantage of metrics to add another radiologist to its 5 p.m. to midnight shift.
Healthcare consultant Chuck Demanche made a similar point in an article published earlier this year in Executive Insight. He writes that in order to efficiently use personnel, radiology managers need to be "vigilant" in monitoring the practice's daily activity. A volume by time of day report by modality will give radiology managers a tool to evaluate staffing needs, as will volume trends for inpatients, outpatients and emergency room patients.
Leveraging technology is another way practices are dealing with staffing issues. Phelps said that the use of cloud technology has allowed his practice to move readings around its multiple locations from parts of the practice that are overloaded to those that have some unused capacity.
Marichal said he is able to use cloud technology, as well as integrated work states, to be efficient enough to maintain ad staff of radiologists large enough to do subspecialty reads. Those allow for his organization to compete with larger radiology groups.
Doing more with less means continually evaluating the practice's workflow.
"We have to be better business leaders in the world of radiology," Marichal told Diagnostic Imaging. "We have to look at every facet of how we practice at all levels of staffing and service lines. If we don't, we'll be extinct."