MRI Process Optimization Brings Big Gains for Patients, Bottom Line

September 19, 2011

The use of production control techniques including statistical analysis, queuing theory, and statistical process control yielded big MRI efficiency gains at a 1,200-bed German hospital, say the authors of a new study in the September issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

The use of production control techniques including statistical analysis, queuing theory, and statistical process control yielded big MRI efficiency gains at a 1,200-bed German hospital, say the authors of a new study in the September issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Researchers led by Li Zhang, PhD, of the department of radiology of University Hospital Giessen and Marburg, pulled out the stops as far as process analysis. They determined customer value using a Kano questionnaire; they measured current-state process and performance data; they timed processes and did process value mapping. They identified and prioritized root causes that hampered MRI process flow using a fishbone diagram as well as failure mode and effect analysis. They applied statistical analysis, queuing theory, and statistical process control to describe and understand process behaviors, to test hypotheses, to validate solutions, and to monitor results.

The team set its sights on providing MRI access to patients within 24 hours, which patients valued. Among the fixes they instituted to get there: adding radiation technologists, avoiding repeat scans, ensuring that patients were at hand come MRI time, and ensuring that MRI protocols were predefined and not created at the last minute by the technologists.

It paid off handsomely, they said. The percentage of patients who underwent MRI scanning within 24 hours shot up from 53 percent to more than 90 percent, with mean cycle time falling from 52 minutes to 39 minutes. Monthly throughput rose 38 percent. Scanner productivity climbed 32 percent. And it paid off financially, as well. Zhang and colleagues estimated revenue and savings at about €247,000 ($340,000) in the first year alone.