MR user automation offers 19% workflow acceleration

An automated MR workflow engine can shave minutes off exam times and reduce the likelihood of human error, according to a study published in the June issue of Academic Radiology.

The system in question is the “day optimizing throughput” (Dot) workflow engine from Siemens Healthcare, which features an automated user interface that integrates patient information, step-by-step guidance and choice of predefined exam strategies, described Christoph Moenninghoff, MD, of University Hospital Essen, Germany, and colleagues.

“The actual scan time of 1.5 Tesla (T) MRI scanners cannot significantly be decreased without a reduction of image quality. However, the automation of [MR] examinations by simplified user interfaces may be the key to increase time efficiency of MRI units, for instance by reducing dead time between individual scanning steps,” they wrote.

Automated workflow engines are designed to reduce variance in image quality from exam to exam, and enable users of different experience levels to complete scans with acceptable quality.

In a head-to-head comparison, two Siemens 1.5T MR scanners, one equipped with the Dot engine and one without, were used to complete a series of four standardized neurological exams in 34 patients with known intracranial pathology. Moenninghoff and colleagues tracked elapsed time for all steps, and surveyed technologists on the user-friendliness of the different scanners.

Results showed that even though the acquisition time for all four protocols increased by an average of 2:30 min, overall exam time using the Dot engine was reduced from 24:53 to 20:01 minutes, representing 19 percent workflow acceleration.

The amount of technologist intervention was decreased by 61 percent, which the authors said, “may reduce user-dependent image flaws and facilitate quality management of MR examinations, which should be proved by further studies.” Technologists also gave significantly better assessments to the Dot engine protocols than the standard user interface.

Moenninghoff and colleagues pointed out there’s been an increasing amount of attention paid to workflow automation, and vendors see semiautomated software tools as a marketing differentiator. In addition to Siemens’ system, the authors noted Philips Healthcare offers MR scanners equipped with throughput improvement technology by increasing coil coverage.

“Ultimately, the clinical community and in particular the operating [radiologic technologists] will decide how much automation leads to the best results,” wrote the authors.