Keeping it simple

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Lisa Fratt, Editor

In the chaotic rush of 21st century radiology, it is all too easy to forget the basics and sweat about the hard stuff—interoperability, meaningful use and ROI. Two recent studies remind us that simple, direct solutions work well in the difficult pay-for-performance (P4P) arena and help beleaguered departments deliver improved quality.

A RAND Corporation study, presented at a Capitol Hill briefing, reported that existing P4P programs have had modest impact on the quality of care. Effective programs are based on consensus, provide clear and observable measures--all while offering incentives that apply to those with control over the process in question, according to RAND.

The department of radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston proved this point in the September issue of American Journal of Roentgenology. The department realized hefty improvements in report turn-around time by offering radiologists a direct financial incentive to improve the controllable metric.

Turn-around time is arguably the most critical metric for radiologists as referring physicians gravitate toward practices with the swiftest report turn-around. In addition, it is easily measured. MGH leveraged its RIS to measure and assess the various stages of the turn-around process.

Other image management technologies also come into play and streamline the report turn-around metric. Web-based image access via PACS enables the virtual radiologist, a much more efficient provider than one tied to a workstation. Speech recognition can eliminate the time-consuming dictation-transcription process to further shave report turn-around.

Granted, RIS/PACS and speech recognition projects are complex, but MGH shows us that simple goals and straightforward programs work. As your department evaluates its image management systems and departmental objectives, try taking a step back and focusing on simplicity. It just might pay.

I would value your comments on the topic.

Lisa Fratt, Editor