Cost-effectiveness study finds three CT techs better than one

November 30, 2004
James Brice

In radiology, cost-effectiveness is usually gauged in terms of minimizing cost to maximize the diagnostic yield of a particular procedure. On Monday, Dr. Giles Boland added a different parameter. Assuming that a busy imaging department has a virtually unlimited supply patients, the Massachusetts General Hospital radiologist found that the department can generate up to an additional $6.2 million by assigning two or three technologists to maximize the productivity of a multislice CT scanner.

In radiology, cost-effectiveness is usually gauged in terms of minimizing cost to maximize the diagnostic yield of a particular procedure. On Monday, Dr. Giles Boland added a different parameter. Assuming that a busy imaging department has a virtually unlimited supply patients, the Massachusetts General Hospital radiologist found that the department can generate up to an additional $6.2 million by assigning two or three technologists to maximize the productivity of a multislice CT scanner.

The study showed that the benefits gained from higher imaging volume far outweigh the costs of staffing a CT suite with two or three technologists. By splitting the responsibility for scanner setup, patient preparation, and image acquisition and processing between two technologists, Boland cut patient throughput times from 26 minutes for a single technologist to 14 minutes for a technologist pair. A trio of technologists assigned to the suite reduced throughput time to 11 minutes per patient.

The team approach more than doubled the equipment's daily imaging capacity. Boland calculated that during an 18-hour workday, the scanner could handle up to 41 patients when staffed with a single technologist, 77 with two technologists, and 98 with three.

Assuming that the average scan produces $300 in revenue, the trio-tech setup could potentially generate $10.7 million annually, or $6.2 million more than with solo technologists and $2.5 million more than with a two-person technologist team staffing the suite for three shifts a day, 250 days per year, he said.

The average MGH technologists earns $86,000 in salary and benefits annually, meaning that a three-person team would produce $5.4 million in additional profits every year.

"If you can manage your CT equipment appropriately and have high productivity, you can address many of the stakeholders' expectations, particular scanner access," Boland said. "It is good for reducing patient wait times, and it is good for your department or group because you can make money."