Money Health: Considering new imaging equipment? Read this first.

February 06, 2011
Paul Amberg
From the January/February 2011 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
This report originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of DOTmed Business News

By Paul Amberg

It is becoming increasingly important for every hospital to reduce waste and inefficiencies so that they are prepared for the coming increase in the number of patients eligible for diagnostic imaging procedures. For example, a mid-size hospital in the Midwest, decided to undergo an optimization project. By focusing on patient flow and workflow redesign, the facility improved equipment utilization and staff satisfaction and estimates it has saved more than $1.4 million. When considering purchasing new equipment, thoughtful and wise decision makers need to keep in mind several factors about how radiology departments operate.

Utilization rate
An imaging department team is aware of how busy they are, but are they aware of how effectively devices are utilized? To grow capacity, the team must be precisely aware of the asset utilization rate for each device. Only after establishing the utilization rate can the department work to reduce inefficiencies of existing operations, and successfully implement new technologies.

To establish basic utilization metrics, multiply the number of procedures by the average time per procedure; divide that by the number of hours of availability and then multiply the result by 100. For example: (240 procedures x .33 hours / procedure) / 168 hours / week) x 100 = 47 percent. With this calculation, the department can better understand how efficiently it is using equipment.

For example, one project at the previously mentioned Midwest hospital calculated utilization rates of the radiology department’s CT devices. After identifying bottlenecks, the team increased use of a 64-slice scanner by 27 percent, or five patients daily. This improved capacity generates additional revenue for the network.

Patient flow
Process improvement techniques historically applied in industries such as manufacturing are now becoming popular in health systems. Lean and kaizen techniques are used to continually improve practices by streamlining tasks and eliminating waste from repetitive actions, resulting in maximum productivity. Using these methods, radiology departments can improve patient flow and increase the number of patients seen daily.

For the Midwest hospital, when analyzing patient flow patterns, the team found that significant delays occurred in the time after patients were placed into an exam room, right before receiving scans. Streamlining several scheduling processes reduced this delay and patient waiting time by 36 percent.

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