Editor's Note: Healthcare Efficiency

Healthcare needs to be obsessed with efficiency. And we do too; efficiency is the lifeblood of healthcare in 2007. Our case study-based stories each month detail the efficiencies gained by people and machines. This month, our cover story shows how PET/CT imaging of oncology patients drives efficiency since it brings about a change in patient management and therapy 40 percent of the time, and PET scans of patients with indeterminate pulmonary nodules eliminate the need for biopsy in one-third of patients.

PACS brings great efficiency and better workflow to the emergency department. It means no film handling for technologists or image hanging; exam sequences are automatically saved for physicians, who also can access priors and see exams within seconds of them being taken; trauma surgeons can stay with patients and confer with radiologists; reports are available in minutes; and online tools enable better image manipulation.

Long the workhorse of digital x-ray, computed radiography is working smarter, too, thanks to smaller, faster, more flexible systems that enable more efficient, decentralized service and centralized image management. As you'll see in the story "Working Smarter With CR," custom algorithms track system and staff performance from one location.

Continuous computing is the mantra of a growing number of healthcare facilities that have crafted proactive business continuity plans to work through and beyond natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Disaster recovery is passé, as efficient data access 24x7 is a must. Periodically re-evaluating short and long term needs make that happen.

Efficiency needs to be part of every good decision healthcare makes.