The Roadmap

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Mary C. Tierney,
Editorial Director

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The old adage couldn’t be more accurate today in the world of imaging. You can’t manage for improvements if you don’t measure to see what is getting better and what isn’t.

Enter the digital dashboard, a decade-old tool that mines and automatically accesses key performance indicators often in visually intuitive methods. Dashboards are seeing a lot more use in these days of an ailing economy and healthcare sector stressed by declining reimbursement and increasing costs. Government-based healthcare reform may be on hold, but the flight to quality and quest by the government to decrease its health-related spending are very much in full gear.

As you’ll see in this month’s cover story, digital dashboards are helping to track increases in patient volumes and referrals and bringing down patient wait times, scanner access time and overall report turnaround time. Dashboards have helped to reduce the time it takes to get physicians to sign reports at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center by 24 percent and the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that 45 percent of reports are signed within two hours of completion.

Other parameters are directly fiscally based such as utilizing data to better allocate staff during busy hours rather than having to pay overtime or load-balancing radiologist’s schedules. Scottsdale Medical Imaging has its dashboard to thank for a 5 to 8 percent increase in profitability through a combination of cost control, monitoring services and business growth.

Dashboards are all about improving healthcare efficiency—and continuous quality improvement by navigating, monitoring, diagnosing and repairing our workflow process. Healthcare is the last industry to take on quality. (No wonder since we’re still paid according to on 1980s-based policies.) Quality in imaging means efficiently using staff and devices to reach a diagnosis for a patient and pass the information along to the caregiver.

Adopting a little thinking from management guru W. Edwards Deming, when people and organizations dedicate themselves to quality (quality = results of work efforts ÷ costs), it tends to increase and costs fall over time. Conversely, the organization focused on cost tends to see costs rise and quality decline over time. To Deming, managers must understand the overall processes of their suppliers, producers and customers, know the range and causes of variations in quality and measure them and understand human nature.

Adopting a dashboard can be a little like the first time you loaded your personal finances into Quicken. “Oh, I really spend that much a month on food?!” If you have one and you’re not taking full advantage of it, start today.