Getting Better All The Time
"Continuous improvement is not about the things you do well—that's work. Continuous improvement is about removing the things that get in the way of your work. The headaches, the things that slow you down, that's what continuous improvement is all about," observes Bruce Hamilton, president of GMBP, a strategic consulting firm.

This month, Health Imaging & IT highlights a series of process improvement prodigies, healthcare organizations that have embraced the challenge of process improvement and realized compelling results, not the least of which is a $1.3 million annual revenue increase at Akron Children's Hospital in Ohio.

It's a challenging, but absolutely essential, undertaking. The message was hammered home earlier this spring at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology, where physicians were exhorted to come to terms with healthcare reform. In short, quality measurement will be a de facto requirement.

In radiology, quality takes many forms: radiation dose optimization, efficiency and appropriate use. One of the primary challenges is determining the right directions for the organization, a task that can be achieved only by engaging stakeholders across the organization in the process. Read this month's cover story to learn more about how radiology providers have leveraged process improvement methodologies to spur meaningful change.

Although the cover story tackles process improvement head-on, it's woven throughout this and every issue of Health Imaging & IT. This month's practice management section analyzes the contentious teleradiology model. Whether a practice chooses to partner with an outside provider, develops an internal teleradiology service or eschews the model entirely, one theme is common across successful models. Successful practices assess local needs by connecting with referring physicians and hospital administration as they develop teleradiology services.

We also visited a few early adopters who deployed one of the hottest technologies on the RSNA 2010 show floor: wireless digital radiography. Adopters report a host of benefits, including efficiency increases in radiology, surgery and anesthesia. In a testament to the systems' blazing fast turnaround, physicians at one site open their laptops at the nurses' station when they spot the portable system on the floor because they know images will be available within seconds.

Ongoing improvement in the face of rapid change represents a challenge. This month's Imaging Insider, Alicia Vasquez, president of the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA) Board of Directors and practice administrator for Arcadia Radiology Medical Group in California, points to the deleterious business impacts of plummeting reimbursement and the uncertainties surrounding healthcare reform and meaningful use.

Like process improvement luminaries, RBMA is gathering data to provide the evidence needed to enact change.

Here at Health Imaging & IT, we strive to engage, inform and share data and strategies to help radiology providers continuously improve. Please let us know how we are meeting our mark and how we can improve.