Process improvements enhance MRI department workflow

Interdepartmental process improvement efforts in MRI departments can improve key performance indicators that can enhance workflow and make those processes more patient-centric, according to a study published this month in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Key performance improvement metrics by the investigators--led by Michael Recht, M.D., of the New York University Langone Medical Centers--included daily inpatient backlogs, on-time performance for outpatient examinations, examination volumes, appointment backlogs for pediatric anesthesia cases, and scanned duration relative to time allotted for an examination.

During a three-week period in April 2011, members of the MRI department at Langone--including administrators, physicians, technologists and schedulers--tracked all aspects of patient flow from scheduling through exam interpretation, trying to determine where the process could improve.

Consequently, the department made a number of process changes. For example, it increased technologist staffing to 1.5 technologists per room as opposed to one per room, in order to prepare outpatients for exams. Another process change involved implementing a live calling system--opposed to a recorded system--reminding patients when to arrive for their exams.

The department also added an electronic greaseboard, displaying the steps involved with each MR exam to enable technologists to better monitor the schedule. And pediatric anesthesia slots were reorganized so that they started earlier and were shorter in duration, which resulted in the addition of eight more slots in the course of a week.

According to Recht and his colleagues, these changes resulted in significant key performance indicator improvements. For example the number of backlogged exams not performed per day decreased from 4.2 to 1.3 per day. The number of exams performed on time increased from 68 percent to 76 percent and the number of exams performed within 30 minutes jumped from 35 percent to 48 percent. The number of exams administered daily increased from 114 to 136 during the week, and from 24 to 36 on the weekends.

The researchers emphasized that these improvements were made entirely by changing processes, and not by adding personnel or equipment.

The importance of workflow for healthcare professionals cannot be overstated, particularly during times of transition 

To learn more:
- see the study in the Journal of the American College of Radiology

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