Becoming World Class in Radiology


Experts at AHRA advise on how to make radiology part of a world-class institution.

Health care today is a fierce field. Whether it's reimbursement dollars or patient volume, today's industry is full of competition. That means scads of facilities are racing to become world-class institutions in one or more areas of care.

But, what does world class mean, and how do you get there?

According to David Cowan, MS, senior research scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Russell Cain, director of imaging services at Atlanta Medical Center, the answers are different for every institution. The overall framework for getting to this level is roughly the same, though, and they offered insight on how you can best reach this goal during the 2017 AHRA annual meeting.

The most difficult part of working toward being a world-class institution, Cain said, is accepting that you can't be the best in everything.

"You have to decide what you want to be world class in. Is it throughput or customer service or patient satisfaction," he said. "You simply can't be world class in everything, so you'll have to make sacrifices somewhere."

That being said, if you undertake this journey, there are steps that can take you in the right direction.

Determine Your Strengths: Identify what your facility is best at, and pinpoint which line or lines of service you want to focus on, Cowan said. Identify which aspects of your performance you'd like to see improve.

Figure Out Measurements: How will you assess your performance and your progress? It's always best, he said, to know which other organizations are already performing well in your chosen area. Study them and compare how you're doing with their outcomes.

Identify Your Key Performance Indicators: Not every performance indicator is appropriate for every improvement effort. Outline which ones are best suited to help you track your performance accurately. Will it be patient satisfaction, cardiac indicators, infection rates, staff satisfaction, or something else?

Establish Targets: Assess your current performance, and decide where you want your facility to be. Outline a plan for how you'll get there.

Select Your Data: You can't make effective improvements without data, Cain said. Choose the information you'll need to move the needle on your performance. It could be data on your productivity, procedures, staffing, patient satisfaction scores, or quality measures. Just be sure the data you select support your overall efforts.

Mixed-Method Research: Don't rely on only one type of research to drive your project. Select both quantitative and qualitative data. You'll need both to make real changes to your performance.

Showcase Your Uniqueness: Before you embark on a project, identify what makes you unique, he said. Highlight what enhances your organization, as well as what challenges you face. Knowing this can help you better target your efforts.

Write Summaries: Keep a log of your organization's successes and failures. It's an easy way to keep track of what you've tried, what's worked, and what's fallen short.

Making changes in your institution to improve performance can be a daunting task, Cain said. Don't be afraid to embrace a system that's already working well elsewhere. Keep in mind, however, there's a possibility that it might not be well suited for your organization. Instead of forcing the fit, see if you can tailor the strategy in a way that will make it productive for you.

And, don't feel you have to tackle the most difficult project you can find in order to secure your organization's place as a world-class facility. Trying to drag something that's not currently a strong suit for your institution up to a level of high performance can set you up for failure -- or at least significant frustration. Choose something else, instead.

"It's easy to make what you're already good at great. To be world class, pick something you're doing well and make it better," Cain said. "You already have passionate, skilled people in your organization who are doing a good job. Give them the additional tools and ideas to take things to a higher level."

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