By Paul Shumway
Radiology has always been a fast-evolving industry.
A four-slice CT scan was state-of-the-art 20 years ago. Now, there are CT scanners on the market capable of 640 slices and upward. It's not just technology changes we have to accommodate, however. We must also keep up with changing expectations about the role of imaging in the overall patient experience.
When imaging processes were reserved for exceptional cases, people accepted that the process took time. Radiology reports took three or four days to get back to providers and patients. They endured the wait—and the resulting anxiousness—because there were few alternatives.
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Today imaging is increasingly considered a normal part of care. Patients want to come in, get scanned, and receive their results almost instantaneously. When people are suffering, technology delays only add to their pain. They want accurate answers, fast—and the heightened fearfulness caused by COVID-19 has raised the desire for expediency even higher. Patients also want the ability to see their images and reports from home, so they don't have to go into their provider's office again.
In many ways, COVID-19 promises to accelerate the pace of changing expectations. Waiting rooms may soon disappear. Telemedicine platforms and wearables may enable more virtual care. In radiology departments and imaging centers, the pressure to deliver a faster, more efficient patient imaging experience will continue to intensify.
Efficiency improves the patient experience
As images get clearer and more informative, they will increasingly drive precision diagnostics and treatment plans. That means radiology departments will be tasked with finding better ways to take care of more patients. To provide an exceptional patient experience and manage larger volumes, processes that create patient-focused throughput and efficiency will become essential.
Speed matters—both to patients and to imaging organizations. Imaging departments need to accommodate increased demand as their organizations expand. Meanwhile, as patients, we all know how tense it can feel to wait for important imaging results. We want to know what's wrong, so we can start addressing it.
Here are a few ways imaging organizations can gain speed and efficiency to improve not only their own operations, but the patient experience too:
● Streamline the patient journey.
Patients used to consider waiting in the imaging waiting room a minor but annoying inconvenience. In the wake of COVID-19, though, it has actually become a deterrent for patients who don't want to risk potential exposure to the novel coronavirus or any other unknown germs from fellow patients. (Many imaging organizations are still feeling the effects of the drop in patient volumes during COVID-19 restrictions.)