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Reducing examination waiting time and boosting patient throughput

Case Study
MRI NetForum TeamPhilips HealthcarePhilips Global

Reducing examination waiting time and boosting patient throughput

The MRCT Diagnoseinstitut (diagnostic institute) in Klagenfurt is the largest practice of its kind in the southern Austrian province of Kärnten. It has a 6-slice CT and two 1.5T MR systems. The newest of these MR systems is a Philips Achieva 1.5T, in use since 2005. Both MR machines handle the standard examinations, such as joints, spine and brain. The Achieva also handles more complex cases such as abdomen, mamma and vascular examinations. Reimbursement from the health insurers is almost independent of the examination type. So Dr. Krzysztof Staniszewski and Dr. Thomas Riepl are keen to ensure the highest possible examination throughput on the Achieva, both to recoup their investment and keep the waiting list under control. In April 2008, a Kaizen Event with Philips Utilization Services helped them achieve that.

Utilization Services and Kaizen Event help to tackle patient changeover delays

Between reporting on 100 examinations a day and administration from bureaucracy to maintaining the PACS, the two doctors did not have the time to follow the project through. Dr. Staniszewski identifies the first attempt as being not effective enough and the supervision "not objective enough". He decided to get professional, external help.
 Dr. Krzysztof Staniszewski Dr. Thomas Riepl
Dr. Krzysztof Staniszewski
Dr. Thomas Riepl

Objectivity and common benefits

The doctors read an article in Field Strength about Philips Utilization Services that got their interest for its objective approach. Dr. Riepl and one of the radiographers then met with Philips representatives at an MR users meeting in Vienna. The convincing point for the radiographers and administrative staff was that this was not about increasing the workload, it was about improving organization for everybody's benefit. "This was important in overcoming skepticism," says Dr. Riepl.

The Philips team first analyzed the situation with a Utilization Quick Scan in the first quarter of 2008. The change then took place in three days in April, in a so called Kaizen Event. Kaizen is Japanese for improvement, and a Kaizen Event aims for a rapid improvement that optimizes a small, self-contained process in a single burst of change. The "Kaizen team" included doctors, radiographers and administrative staff, working together. The Kaizen Event started by describing and observing the patient changeover, using brainstorming, video and interviews. This turned out to have more than 30 steps. Next came identifying possible changes in further brainstorming, and on the third day, making and securing the changes.
The initial Utilization Quick Scan analysis reveals long "pause" times during the day, mainly due to patient no shows.

Concrete actions, immediate benefits

To reduce patient no-shows and their impact, the first change was to call patients to confirm appointments the day before the examination. They also were asked to show up 15 minutes earlier for their examination. Analysis had shown there was overcapacity in the overlap of the two shifts of radiographers. Now one of them uses this time and a standardized script to call patients who seem most likely not to come, or those with long examinations where a no-show would mean a lot of time wasted. Patients report liking this reminder service, and apart from reducing no-shows, it improves punctuality (<1% late, compared with 11% late without a reminder call). The radiographer also asks the patient - in cases where the patient is undergoing two MRI studies - to fax or bring their paperwork a day before the examination, or even when they are making the appointment. This more than halves the number of delays associated with incomplete paperwork.

They also started overbooking patients - as Dr. Staniszewski points out, airlines have been doing this successfully for years. Based on the statistical analysis of the no-show occurrences, they started with 4 extra patients, at key times every day.

They also now start the changeover 5 minutes earlier. This ensures better screening, instruction and preparation before entering the scanning room. For the radiographer's preparation, they adjusted ExamCards based on a Pareto analysis of the utilization data, to focus on the most used examinations and define specific ExamCards for frequent requests. They standardized other aspects of the preparation too, such as making contrast injections consistent between radiologists. SmartExam technology, for routine examinations, and various other measures to reduce artifacts and improve consistency have helped reduce retakes.


Direct and indirect contributions

Dr. Staniszewski and Dr. Riepl agree that Philips contribution was key to the success of the Kaizen Event. "Philips consultants moderated the brainstorming to find solutions," says Dr. Riepl. "We had the ideas, but the Philips consultants contributed the arguments for and against them. It is hard to know which ideas we had, and which they guided us to." Dr. Staniszewski agrees, and confirms the significance of Philips moderation. "Ideas or even just approval by an external source, with external authority, get greater acceptance," he notices.

Dr. Staniszewski measures success as the benefit against the effort taken. "The effort during the Kaizen Event was not extraordinary, and we were surprised how the change happened without any disruption in the institute," he says. Further utilization scans have shown a 12% increase in patient numbers on Mondays to Thursdays (when the practice is open 14 hours), and 22% on Fridays, when the practice is open until lunchtime.

"The sustainability of the improvement is assured by everybody's participation from the start," Dr. Staniszewski continues. This participation continues in monitoring the patient numbers, and in re-examining throughput to fine-tune the overbookings. Of course, the staff wanted to know what was in increasing the patient throughput for them personally. They decided to set up a bonus fund, shared out among them, based on the increase in patient numbers. This reinforces the motivation to sustain the improvements.

While the 8 radiographers and 9 administrative staff have accommodated the increase by reducing non-scan time, the 2 doctors have had to engage a further, part-time radiologist to cope with the increased caseload. The result has helped them reduce waiting times - to the satisfaction of the referring doctors and the patients - and ensure the best possible return on their investment in Philips MR.
The MRCT Diagnoseinstitut team during the Kaizen Event.


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Case Study
Achieva 1.5T
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