Radiologists: Business analytics tools not used enough in healthcare

Business analytics tools have the potential to help the healthcare industry--and in particular the radiology industry--tighten up its processes to improve quality and safety. However, according to Katherine Andriole (right), director of imaging informatics at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, such tools aren't being used nearly enough.

Andriole, who spoke at an educational session at the Radiological Society of North America's annual conference in Chicago, said through the use of business analytics, radiologists can look at and combine different sets of data in new ways to detect gaps in care and services delivered.

"Radiology information isn't exclusive to radiology specific systems," Andriole said. "It is distributed through multiple, disparate systems, and individually or combined, these databases have a tremendous amount of vital information. Business analytics can help administration folks to sort and summarize that information so that executive decisions can be made in a timely fashion."

Director of Quality at Johns Hopkins University's department of radiology Paul Nagy (left), who also spoke at the session, agreed, saying that without such tools, anecdotal impressions of data could very well drive important decisions.

"Without business analytics, you can't challenge pet theories to real problems," Nagy said. "Without real data, statistical reviews often are boiled down to a series of assumptions. And if you're waiting for a cavalry to come in and save the day with regard to quality, then you're waiting for Godot."

Nagy added that healthcare organizations need to have a "very coherent strategy" for how they want to use big data for it to truly be effective.

"It can be a very powerful for improving healthcare," Nagy said.

Tessa Cook (right), a cardiovascular radiology fellow at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, talked about how her facility used business analytics technology to eliminate unnecessary imaging scans for patients. Cook helped to develop an open-source software pipeline dubbed RADIANCE (Radiation Dose Intelligent Analytics for CT Examinations) that automatically extracts and archives CT dose-related parameters from the dose sheets created by CT scanners.

One of her main points was that such systems need to be adaptable, in case of growth--or regression--at a facility.

"Inherent flexibility is important when picking or designing business analytics systems," Cook said.

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