Radiology departments turn to computer 'dashboards' to track MRI access, patient volumes: survey
April 01, 2013
by Brendon Nafziger
, DOTmed News Associate Editor
Radiology managers trying to run their departments using complicated imaging software are often like new drivers suddenly placed behind the wheel of a super-fast racing car — they need some help, the authors of a new study suggest.
That's possibly why some radiology departments appear to be relying on computer "dashboards" to make sense of all the data they're dealing with.
According to a small survey published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, two-thirds of responding U.S. academic radiology departments use digital dashboards to keep track of revenue, patient volume, turnaround times and outpatient access to high-end equipment, like MRI scanners.
And many of the departments are just getting on board: about half have used the dashboard technology for less than two years, the study said.
"Not unlike a 'beginner driver behind the wheel of a Formula One race car,' today's radiology system administrators sit at the controls of high-performance PACS, but they do not have the effective and efficient tools to 'drive' them," wrote lead author Dr. Bahar Mansoori and colleagues.
Computer dashboards show performance or financial metrics by pooling together data from separate systems, with the information often illustrated in graphs and charts, the authors said. They can help radiology managers and doctors make better decisions by documenting trends over time, highlighting urgent cases, and giving at-a-glance summaries of the financial and operational health of the department, according to the study's authors.
In the mail-in survey of 56 departments, 62 percent said they used dashboards for managing operations or finances, with three-quarters saying the main source of data for the department was the RIS. (One-fifth used both PACS and RIS, but only 6 percent relied on PACS alone.)
The most commonly measured financial metrics were revenue, expenses and days in accounts receivable, all used by about three-quarters of respondents with the systems. For productivity metrics, the top ones were total examination volume, used by 81 percent of respondents, and total volume per modality, used by 78 percent. For metrics gauging access to services by outpatients, the most popular indicators were turnaround time, at 88 percent, and patient backlog, at 80 percent.
Most sites also routinely tracked access to high-end imaging devices, according to the survey. Nearly nine out of 10 tracked MRI and mammography access, while 83 percent tracked CT and 72 percent PET, the authors said.
The study is "Utilization of Dashboard Technology in Academic Radiology Departments: Results of a National Survey."