Article

How Subscription Software Assists Imaging Protocol Standardization

A radiologist examines the CT scan images of a cancer patient from diagnosis to the image taken at 10 a.m. Throughout the series of images, the radiologist notices that the quality of each image varies as treatment progressed. It leaves the radiologist wondering if it’s indicating that the treatment is not working or the various images, taken on different days, are not consistent enough to provide an accurate picture.

Unfortunately, this can happen, especially in large healthcare networks in the United States. It is common for the same patient to undergo multiple diagnostic imaging exams in various departments throughout an organization. Throughout an organization, it’s possible for these locations to have varying equipment not to mention levels of software. These variations may result in a radiologist’s hesitation and as a result, longer than necessary to interpret and exam or even repeat scans may occur. The lack of clinical confidence on a radiologist’s part may mean a delay in the next steps in treatment. It’s a costly issue, not just for the hospital but for the patient.

To solve this problem, healthcare organizations are working to standardize their protocols, improve their workflow and ultimately create a better patient experience. These efforts are reflective of the shift toward patient-centered healthcare. In fact, technology is available to help healthcare providers with their protocol standardization: subscription software.

What is subscription software?

Within the last decade, the way we have acquired new software has changed. Previously we added the latest software to our computers through floppy and eventually compact disks. Each time, it required an investment in the software with no guarantee it would be relevant in the years to come.

The Internet and cloud technology have changed the way we acquire the latest technology. Instead of a one-time fee for each version of software, users are now able to buy subscriptions so they have continuous access to the latest technology. 

As diagnostic imaging technology advances, the ability to keep their protocols up-to-date everywhere, on all their devices, and with the latest clinical capabilities on a near-instantaneous basis is critical. These advances allow for medical facilities to keep pace with the trend towards patient-centered care. This concept includes shorter turnaround times, less time being in the diagnostic imaging process, and ultimately a reduction in cost. 

Benefits of subscription software

In 2019, we surveyed medical facilities who used software subscription to ensure they’re using the latest technology to treat patients. We spoke to administrators, chiefs of radiology, radiologists, lead technologists and technologists on the emotional and financial impacts of their decision to subscribe.1

Improved job satisfaction

In a world with increasing patient caseloads, bureaucratic tasks, and hours at work, burnout is a common issue in the medical industry. Radiology is not immune. A 2019 Medscape report indicates that only 25% of radiologists are “very or extremely happy at work.”2

It seems as though technology may be able to help mitigate at least part of the burnout experienced by radiologists and staff. Each one of the four job titles in our survey indicated an increase in job satisfaction post-adoption of subscription software. For technologists, it meant they only had to learn one set of capabilities. Radiologists indicated increased clinical confidence while administrators reported less time spent pursuing scanner upgrades.1 

The increased job satisfaction feedback is essential as the role of radiology continues to grow in its significance in the healthcare industry. Dr. Charles Williams, the chair of the American College of Radiology's Commission on Human Resources, reports that the number of new radiologists is increasing by 2% per year.3

 

However, the American College of Radiology reports that MRI, CT, and interventional radiology services have increased on an average of 7.3% annually for the past 12 years. In short, the healthcare system will continue to depend on radiology departments, making the job satisfaction levels of said staff paramount.3

Evaluating costs

Hospital administrators and managers reports indicate that using subscription software resulted in decreased lost patient slots. While the reasons behind a lost patient slot vary (no-shows or patient went to the wrong site), it’s a costly situation.1

One study evaluated the impact of missed appointments and the resulting uncaptured revenue at the Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Between brain MRIs, abdominal ultrasounds, and mammogram screenings, the estimated annual financial impact was $700,000.4 

However, this does not need to be the case. The usage of software subscriptions to help with standardizing protocols and tracking utilization, hospital administrators reported reduced reschedules, errors, and repeats, thus minimizing the uncaptured revenue. Additionally, some sites reported reduced labor costs per exam and increased revenue.1 

Improved patient experience

Ever-increasing costs have changed the way healthcare providers approach their practice. As technology advances and the industry shifts to a patient-centered model, providers are increasingly invested in the patient experience.5

As mentioned earlier, one of the benefits of using subscription software to help with standardization is the reduced number of reschedules, repeats, and scans. While this benefits the bottom line, it also benefits patients as they spend less time in the waiting room and undergoing the procedure. As a result, referring physicians spend less time waiting for results and are able to begin planning treatment sooner than before.

New technology is a win-win

Recommending technology may be daunting to medical professionals from a cost and clinical confidence perspective. However, the research indicates that using subscription software to aid protocol standardization is worth the investment. The evidence is in improved workflows, reduced lost revenue, and ultimately a happier staff is a win-win-win situation. 

Resources

  1.  Smart Subscription top value drivers are reduced training, capital costs, and time spent pursuing upgrades & improved consistency. GE Healthcare. July 19, 2019. 
  2. Medscape Radiologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2019. Medscape. https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/2019-lifestyle-radiologist-6011151#2. July 19, 2019.
  3. Radiologist Shortage: A challenging era for radiology. LocumTenens.com. https://www.locumtenens.com/radiology-careers/radiologist-shortage/. July 24, 2019.
  4. Appointment no-shows could cost an average radiology practice $1M a year. Radiologist Business. https://www.radiologybusiness.com/topics/care-delivery/annual-uncaptured-revenues-radiology-exams-could-equal-1m. July 23, 2019.
  5. Kruskai, J., Larson, David. Strategies for Radiology to Thrive in the Value Era. RSNA. https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/10.1148/radiol.2018180190. July 18, 2019.