Diversified Radiology of Colorado believes its practice is a model for specialized radiology reads via teleradiology. Here’s how.
This Denver-based imaging service, which dates back to 1927, currently employs 55 radiologists staffed across 12 hospitals and reads for about 20 surgery and imaging centers throughout Colorado. The practice averages 750,000 billed services annually including subspecialty reads and teleradiology services. Embracing a philosophy of “from anywhere to anywhere,” Diversified’s 50 reading stations are purposed with pushing exams to general and specialized radiologists—all focused on increasing the practice’s efficiency and growth. It’s a model worth emulating.
Networking the practice
What started as a secret ended as a skilled teleradiology network, according to Chris “Kip” McMillan, CEO of Diversified Radiology. Beginning in 2000, the practice made the decision to purchase and own its PACS reading stations used in hospitals to read via various PACS from other hospitals. Thanks in part to Denver’s thriving recreational industry including a vibrant skiing population, the practice noticed the robustness of the orthopedic community and its consistent demand for musculoskeletal reads. With its eyes focused on the orthopedic market, Diversified Radiology decided to isolate the musculoskeletal studies in a “secret” reading room staffed by musculoskeletal specialists. Diagnostic images were pushed out through T1 and telephone line connections. This form of teleradiology sought to increase the efficiency of radiologists reading musculoskeletal exams all day in the secret reading room while providing a needed service to referring physicians.
Although it was dubbed a “secret” and the room was lined with posters of Maxwell Smart and Underdog, the idea was so popular that another specialized reading station was added and the operation was dubbed a network where referring physician-demanded reads were sent to radiologists through a direct push.
Over the years, Diversified Radiology has continued to improve its efficiency by adapting its workflow to the changing technology environment. For instance, when it was discovered that radiologists were bogged down with unnecessary paper, the practice switched over to what McMillan refers to “air traffic control:” employing administrative clerical resources to pre-scrub incoming data in a server environment. “It’s important to not have high-priced physician resources doing things someone else can do,” says McMillan.
When hospitals began widely adopting PACS, it became awkward to integrate multiple local PACS, according to McMillan, and the group’s efficiency took a hit. In 2008, Diversified Radiology partnered with a PACS provider to deploy a single work environment to interface with any PACS and allow the radiologists to dictate, annotate, finalize and send notes back to the hospital’s PACS workstations.
Using a unified worklist, all studies are routed into a single reporting system equipped with voice recognition software. Radiologists embed annotations and arrows in the images for quick problem identification for physicians and patients, according to Sean O. Bryant, MD, who specializes in fetal MRI, pediatric neuroimaging and head and neck imaging. Because patients are more sophisticated about their healthcare, they appreciate clinicians’ ability to visually point out areas of interest from their report, says Bryant.
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“One of the advantages of our IT infrastructure is that even those hospitals that are general practice hospitals are now, through the network, able to receive higher level subspecialty reading,” says Stephen