Even Radiology Needs A Playbook

September 26, 2013
Richard Woodcock, MD

Just like any other team, radiology practices could benefit from a manual to keep provider preferences and practices organized.

With football season here, all levels of players are learning a new playbook. Without it, new players on any team would be confused and slow to figure out the routine. Radiology practices are no different, but many of us don’t have a playbook.

Just recently, a tech called me to ask about a study protocol that was a little uncommon, but about which we had talked before. After giving her the information, I asked why she didn’t just use the standard we had talked about previously. Her reply was one I hear from techs all the time: that they just can’t keep track of all the different needs and desires of radiologists and there is no one place they can easily find them.

Shortly thereafter, I heard from a referring physician that they were unable to schedule someone for a study we had recently started to do. The schedulers said they hadn’t heard of it, and it wasn’t something the radiologists do. Like a lot of us, these situations made me frustrated. But they also made me wonder why there was a breakdown in communication. Much of it comes down to accessibility of the information and its reliability.

We can all use a playbook, and for us, it can be a “knowledge center” – a place the staff goes to find out new information and check individual providers’ preferences. It goes beyond this, though, as we have to take the added step of informing the staff of changes and keeping them in the loop.

A few plays should be included in all playbooks. For starters:

Protocols: This one is pretty straightforward at first thought. Most of us keep protocols for routine studies. But they need to be regularly updated for changes in equipment, such as 3T scanners, for new techniques in the industry, and for new applications. Remember that the techs may not know about newer techniques, even those that are a few years old. So take some time on slow days to fill them in. Or better yet, have a regular session to bring them up to date, twice a year. And for anything the group doesn’t agree on, add notes for each individual provider preferences. It’s okay to practice differently in some cases. But it is better for the staff to know where and when you want something done differently if you are the one responsible.

Scheduling: Keep a list of procedures your group does. Keep the list public and online or in a notebook. It won’t take long, but it makes a quick easy reference to check for the staff. This is especially important if you practice with a large technical center that may use several reading groups. When you add a procedure or find one that is confusing or unusual, update the list, and inform the schedulers. Meet with them regularly, and be sure there no questions. You can fill them in on new procedures.

Safety and procedures: Many are common and certainly every practice and center needs a standard operating manual. But some areas are not as straightforward, and the preferences of the practicing providers can be written down to keep things working well.

In the end, having a playbook means less confusion, better, more efficient patient service, less frustrated staff and referring physicians, and fewer phone calls and questions for you.

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