Order entry workflow could be a prime target for automation

Radiologists or technologists who manually select protocols for commonly ordered exams rarely add value, making protocol selection a prime target for workflow automation, according to research published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

“This process of protocol selection of advanced imaging studies is labor-intensive, can disrupt workflow, and may displace staff from more valuable tasks,” wrote James Tudor, MD, with the department of radiology at Henry Ford Health System, and colleagues.

The team of four from the Detroit-based health system looked at the protocol selection process in four hospitals within its network.

Two hospitals used radiologists or residents for protocol selection of advanced studies, while the other two institutions employed radiologic technologists.

Data from more than 273,000 cross-sectional exam orders were broken down into the 12 most frequently requested examinations. Overall, the authors found the change rate for radiologists/residents “very low” (4 percent) and similar to that of radiologic technologists (1 percent).

“When changes in examinations happen during the process of protocol selection they tend to follow predictable patterns, which makes protocol selection of most radiology orders for advanced imaging amenable to workflow automation,” Tudor et al. wrote.

The group found most exams that underwent change included a patient with a low estimated glomerular filtration rate, patients with contrast allergies or a provider ordering a general exam, but instead wanted an organ-specific study.

“An automated or semi-automated system to select protocols would save a substantial amount of time and resources as well as removing a bottleneck within the workflow that can unnecessarily delay examinations,” authors wrote.