Just as a commercial airplane is designed to keep flying, it is vital to capitalize on MRI equipment usage to maximize its efficiency. When a plane does get grounded, for whatever reason, the loss can be enormous. The same holds true for MRI equipment. With any high-cost equipment, every minute counts and an empty table in an MRI means lower patient throughput.
When we think of throughput concerns, the logic often is “faster scanning with new MRI technology will increase throughput.” Though a faster piece of equipment may improve throughput slightly, it is typically not the scanner itself causing a bottleneck in the MRI process. When examining throughput, it’s best to look at the entire process step-by-step from an operational standpoint. Here we offer seven considerations in maximizing throughput.
7 Ways to Maximize Throughput
1. Look Beyond Volume
Volume is, of course, an important aspect to maximizing throughput but it should not be the only element considered. Scans can take between 10 minutes to over an hour to complete depending on the body part being imaged. Understanding your procedure mix and dedicating the appropriate amount of time for each procedure is key to efficient scheduling.
2. Plan for the Unexpected
No shows, staffing issues, equipment downtime and other factors can be a challenge. Understanding what could go wrong and having a plan in place for when it does can minimize the effect of such occurrences on patient throughput.
3. Reduce Redundancy
Analyze your existing protocols for time-wasting redundancies and identify opportunities to consolidate or eliminate redundant protocols where necessary. While many protocols can be shortened, some may also need to be lengthened to increase image quality without sacrificing throughput.
4. Prioritize Education
When evaluating current processes, include staff, referring physicians and even patients in your discovery process and re-educate your team on what’s necessary to maintain patient flow and volume. Ensure that the patient screening form is consistent with workflow and make certain that each patient is not being asked to fill out duplicate forms. Ensure referring physicians are effectively pre-screening patients and that the schedules of supporting physicians are carefully coordinated with patient schedules.
5. Adopt the “On-Deck” System
Developing procedures focused on maintaining a steady patient flow is crucial to maximizing throughput. Take steps to ensure the next patient is prepped and ready for their exam immediately following the previous scan. Utilizing specialty items like MRI safe wheelchairs and gurneys can relieve bottlenecks caused by waiting for equipment to be returned before you can bring in the next patient.
6. Patients First
Take steps to create a warm, non-clinical environment to reduce patient stress. Keeping patients comfortable with positioning aids can lessen the potential need for re-scans due to movement. Fun distractions can also help put patients as ease. See our popular blog posts “Scan-Castles, Submarines, and Pirate Ships” and “Improve Patient Experience by Adding a Skylight to your MRI Suite” for some great ways to make patients more comfortable and reduce stress.
7. Boost Staff Morale
Happy employees equate to higher patient satisfaction. Finding ways to improve workflows and processes can lead to improved staff morale which can have a positive effect on patient care.
There are many short-term and long-term consequences of inefficient throughput. Aside from the projected loss of revenue or reimbursements, it is often the customer experience that is impacted the most. Customer dissatisfaction due to long waiting times can cost your facility money in poor reviews and customers opting for alternative locations for future scans.
Process improvements can shorten queue times, increase staff and customer satisfaction and generate cash flow from new and repeat customers. Remember, maximizing throughput is not just about equipment and scan times but understanding what improvements can be made to get patients in and out in the most efficient manner, without sacrificing the quality of the scan.
At KMG, we believe it is our responsibility as your partner to help run a successful imaging facility. Contact Eric Evans, our National Sales Executive today if you’re experiencing throughput concerns.