Amid the focus on such things as consumerism in health care, population health management and reimbursement models based on value, some hospital executives are plugging away at making the system more efficient in established areas.
Officials for the Cleveland Clinic see a lot of potential for improvement in the area of radiology, by using technology to try to get the most qualified radiologists reading particular images, and by freeing radiologists from tasks other than radiology.
As a result, the organization has partnered with a radiology systems company called Candescent Health to implement Candescent’s efficiency and quality improvement-seeking processes, and also to help other health systems do the same. Cleveland Clinic also has an option to invest in Candescent under terms it declined to disclose.
Michael Phillips, M.D., director of the Center for Business Development within the Imaging Institute at Cleveland Clinic, says there are two main avenues for improvement using the system.
Using data generated through the system, Cleveland Clinic will be able to identify potential and available radiologists with the best track record for translating an image for a particular medical scenario — no small undertaking for a large health system.. “We have a lot of radiologists and we have a lot of sites where we [provide radiological] services,” Phillips says. “If an image is acquired at any one site, we need to get that image to the right person to read that image, and we want to do that in a timely fashion,” he says.
It should also improve quality. “Subspecialty radiologists read faster and they read better than generalists,” Phillips says. “It’s not because they’re any smarter, it’s just [that] they have the opportunity to have more practice” in a given area, he says.
The issue of improving medical diagnoses is an important one, with the Institute of Medicine paying particular attention. The IOM in September released a report, “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care,” noting that about 5 percent of U.S. adults who seek outpatient care experience a diagnostic error.
The clinic also is seeking to keep radiologists practicing at the top of their license by reducing administrative tasks. The system includes a 24-hour service bureau to help radiologists with such things as calling consulting physicians. “This keeps the people providing care focused on the care that they are delivering … and perhaps being a little more timely and more efficient doing that,” Phillips says.