5 secrets of an efficient radiology department

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | October 28, 2010
Dr. Hans-Peter Busch
Not many radiology departments have a full-time economist on staff, but Dr. Hans-Peter Busch's does. The director of radiology with Krankenhaus der Barmherzigen Brüder, a 600-bed hospital in Trier, Germany, Busch originally trained to be a physicist. "So I like numbers, figures and facts," he says.

A frequent speaker and author of "Management Handbuch für Radiologe," Busch is one of a number of radiologists hoping to bring productivity-boosting methods to the profession.

Busch's main aim is what he calls "process optimization" -- finding ways to streamline workflow, improve utilization and keep patients happy.

By some accounts, these kinds of strategies work. Earlier this month, Mayo Clinic researchers reported in the Journal of the American College of Radiology they were able to boost productivity among radiologic technologists by 50 percent through a measurement-feedback program, potentially saving the department $174,000 a year in personnel costs.

And Busch says optimization will soon be increasingly necessary, especially as payer models move from paying per exam (the "so more, so better" model, as Busch puts it) to tying payments to a course of treatment or even population, as in the accountable care organization (ACO) model, in which radiology departments will have to be even leaner.

Even now, there are benefits, he says. Since hiring the economist and running process optimization strategies, his team found unexpected ways to run a tighter and, yes, better-smelling, ship.

"Only to do good radiology," Busch says, "you cannot survive."

Here are some of his tips.