21st-century medicine depends on imaging solutions for proper diagnosis and care of patients, here’s how to make sure your imaging workflow is easy and efficient.
- Medical imaging plays a more prominent role than ever in the patient’s diagnostic and treatment process.
- Addressing medical imaging workflow challenges is well worth the effort and can reap many benefits that you will see right away.
- Recent studies have shown that delays in processing and reviewing medical imaging adds hours to the patient care process.
- One of the fastest ways to improve a healthcare organization’s workflow is to consolidate individual department worklists into one universal worklist.
The medical imaging workflow is an essential function of every healthcare network. Unfortunately, that workflow is different for each area of medicine. Specialties such as cardiology, dermatology, pediatrics, and gastroenterology have different needs and use medical imaging at different points in the diagnosis/treatment process.
Other challenges that create barriers to improved workflow include:
- Inconsistent tools and technology: Many medical organizations still use DVDs to capture medical images and have to either give them to the patient to take them back to other doctors or ship them off to other departments or buildings via interoffice mail — or even the US Postal Service — for review and interpretation.
- Managing urgency within the organization: According to a Radiology Business, there is a tendency for all doctors and medical professionals to flag their requests for medical imaging as needed “STAT.” This causes major problems for radiologists and other analysts who have to prioritize which images to process next. If all imaging requests are needed STAT, the requests don’t factor in how long the patient has been waiting for results, the severity of a particularly time-sensitive diagnosis, and many other factors. In short, if everything is needed STAT, then nothing is really STAT. Flagging imaging orders as STAT needs to be managed better and have clear guidelines as to when that tag should be honored.
- Technical issues with systems and technology: Most medical professionals are not technology experts. They like to use whatever works best for them and may be reluctant to use new technology, image sharing and tracking software, patient tracking information, etc. Also, consider the different types of technology used throughout a hospital or medical practice: If the laptop the doctor uses for patient care does not have enough memory to open up an electronic image shared by the radiology department regarding recent tests, that compromises the patient’s care.
- Using different systems and workflows to track imaging information: Handling patent care is often different for departments within the same hospital. Passing patient care from one department to another in these environments opens the door to delays and errors. Errors such as data entry errors, lost records, and conflicting doctor’s orders may occur. The individual department workflows do not always consider the needs of the patients.
Addressing these medical imaging workflow challenges is well worth the effort. One of the best ways to improve your overall workflow is to consolidate individual department worklists into one enterprise-wide worklist. This action alone can reap tremendous benefits for your workflow.
Reduced operational costs
One of the most significant cost savings in using a digital imaging workflow is eliminating physical storage media for imaging. Some organizations still provide images on film or burn digital images onto discs for transfer or storage. Physical media transfer and storage costs a lot of money, where digital imaging’s only cost is storage space on the hospital’s server.
Because of the current reliance on physical storage media for medical imaging, it is impossible to gauge how long it will take for diagnostic images to get from one medical specialist to another. In cases of complex illness or injury, where many medical professionals will be involved in the care of that patient, hand-carrying medical images wastes a lot of time.
There are many other ways that a unified worklist reduces operational costs. Some of these include:
- Decreasing the amount of time spent dealing with communication issues between departments
- Allowing medical personnel to work more efficiently by smoothing out the sharing process for medical images
- Reducing the amount of time administration deals with patient complaints
- Avoiding unnecessary duplication of effort due to conflicting departmental worklists
- Streamlining the diagnosis and treatment processes for patients
Improved collaboration and communication
Good medical care depends on collaboration between medical colleagues. Radiologists talk to physicians and physicians talk to patients. Physicians may need to consult with other physicians who are specialists in the care the patient needs.
Better workflow means having everyone on the same page, using the same systems and technology, speaking the same language, and making it easier to communicate securely to protect patients’ privacy. One universal worklist will ensure that everyone is working from the same standards.
Reduced patient wait times
Recent studies have shown that delays in processing and reviewing medical images are a major cause of long wait times. Even delays of a few minutes, such as burning images to a DVD or finding someone who can take the images to another department, adds minutes to the patient’s wait time. A digital storage and sharing application can reduce these transfer times to almost zero and minimize the time patients wait for results and their next steps.
Improved quality of care
Consistent procedures and processes lead to improved quality of care. Unified worklists make automated workflows possible. These workflows reduce opportunities for human error, make it easier to identify problems within the medical diagnostic and treatment process, and speed up the overall care. Because there is also more emphasis on meeting regulatory requirements to get reimbursement for the services provided, there is also a financial incentive for everyone to follow the same worklist.
Increased patient satisfaction
Long wait times for care are a leading reason for patient dissatisfaction. If the ability to process and review medical images speeds up even by a couple of percentage points, the results can considerably improve customer satisfaction.
Easier to identify areas for improvement
With clear and consistent workflows, it is easy to see where problem areas in the process are and provide opportunities for process improvement. Clear and consistent workflows can also identify gaps in your processes and areas where more training might be needed.
One of the keys to improving your healthcare practices’ workflow is improving your organization’s tools to share medical images. DICOM Director’s Share XR application uses a unique set of technologies that allows seamless communication between physicians, patients, and other providers. Share XR is easy to use, completely secure, and HIPAA compliant. To learn more, please fill out our simple online contact form, or give us a call at 1 (203) 823-9945.