From the August 2014 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
By Ben Strong
Diagnostic imaging is often used early in a patient’s hospitalization —
for this reason the radiology department serves as a reliable bellwether, foreshadowing what is to come during the remainder of the care cycle. When the right imaging services are delivered in a timely manner, there is a cascade of positive impacts that include accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and greater cost-efficiency. Hospital leaders looking to prepare for accountable care should investigate how radiology impacts performance in other departments, which is a task that is best accomplished using analytics.
For example, most hospitals can identify variations in ordering patterns today by harvesting information from the computerized order entry system. To gain a deeper understanding, tools like natural language processing can be used to calculate what percentage of ordered imaging procedures have abnormal findings present in the radiology report. The chief medical officer probably knows today who the highest utilizers of imaging are in the ED, but what can he or she really do with that information? When radiology can demonstrate which physicians have the highest — or lowest — yield of findings in their ordered procedures then you’ve given the CMO something much more meaningful to work with — data rather than just conjecture.
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In addition to examining imaging appropriateness and utilization, radiology analytics can also provide insight into cost drivers for imaging procedures. When a study is ordered with contrast media there is an increase in the time necessary to complete the procedure, increased risk of harm to the patient and the added expense from the contrast material itself. By studying the data hospitals can learn how contrast usage varies from one institution to another throughout their system, standardizing guidelines for contrast ordering to rein in cost and improve safety.
Analysis of radiology workflow and report turnaround times can reveal departmental bottlenecks that slow ED throughput. Report turnaround time is currently one of the least understood areas of radiology performance because traditional methods of measurement don’t capture the whole story. Radiology groups normally measure report turnaround time from the moment that images become available for interpretation until the moment that the final report is signed. In reality, this represents a small portion of the entire imaging cycle, which actually begins when the order for imaging is placed. A classic example is the role of prep tasks (between radiology and the ED) and the impact on Treat to Street.