RBMA: Reclaim Your Time with a Concierge Service

August 5, 2020

Implementing a radiology concierge service can alleviate the administrative tasks that can de-rail your image interpretation time.

Imagine reclaiming nearly an hour of your time every day – taking fewer phone calls and spending less time on administrative tasks. A radiology concierge service can make that dream a reality.

This type of service can streamline your workflow and reduce your stress, said Reed Humphrey, vice president of technology consulting at healthcare technology company Canopy Partners. He outlined the benefits of launching such a service, as well as how to design one, during an Aug. 4 session of the Radiology Business Management Association PaRADigm Shift 2020 virtual conference.

“These services help improve the quality of care within the technologists, the referring physician community, and the patients by getting the right study to the right radiologist at the right time,” he said.

Overall, concierge centers field telephone calls and handle administrative tasks, freeing radiologists up to focus on the more heavy-lifting image interpretation without distractions. On average, Humphrey said, they can boost productivity between 5 percent and 10 percent while bolstering your patient and referring provider satisfaction scores.

Creating a Concierge Service

Effective concierge strategies have both a personal and technical component, said Humphrey’s co-presenter Laurie Shoaf, Canopy Partners radiology concierge services manager. The keystone is the professional radiology assistant (PRA). This cadre of trained staff assumes responsibility for the communication and administrative tasks radiologists currently juggle.

Overall, they support a radiology practice in four ways. They can directly communicate findings to referring providers or connect radiologists and ordering physicians to discuss more critical cases, and they can escalate urgent images, such as potential strokes, to ensure timely reads. In addition, PRAs can identify and fix order errors, such as requesting missing information or images, and they can handle all inbound calls, facilitating provider consultations and protocol questions.

On the technical side, Humphrey said, you will need scheduling software, communication tracking, and instant messaging for in-the-moment referring provider feedback. But, two system features are responsible for most of the efficiency – the smart worklist and a streamlined phone system.

The smart worklist, which can lead to a 10-percent to 15-percent efficiency improvement, lets you see all information in one place at one time, and it can help balance the workload between your radiologists, as well as funnel sub-specialty reads to the most appropriate provider. In some cases, Humphrey said, Canopy Partner’s clients have experienced a more than 35-minute improvement in turnaround times across emergency, outpatient, and inpatient scans.

Implementing a simplified phone system that includes a single phone number for the practice and a database of all referring provider phone numbers can make workflow easier. The best practice, Shoaf said, is to publish the phone number internally and externally to ensure PRAs can connect technologists and referring providers with the most appropriate radiologists quickly.

“It minimizes unwanted calls and disruptions in the reading room and provides the ability to triage those calls from a variety of sources to ensure timely turnaround,” she said. “And, radiologists no longer have to give out their personal cell phone numbers.”

One Health System’s Experience

North Carolina-based Cone Health and its diagnostic imaging partner Greensboro Radiology have experienced significant improvements with a radiology concierge service, Humphrey said. Currently, Greensboro Radiology’s 75 providers are responsible for reading the more than 700,000 images that come from the health system each year.

According to their analysis, he said, the PRAs field nearly 83,000 phone calls annually, totally approximately 178,000 minutes of fielding questions and processing requests. Doing so has alleviated 2,970 hours of administrative time for the radiologists. Averaged out, he said, it equates to a time savings of 39 minutes per 9-hour shift. In terms of productivity time, having the PRAs has added 313 radiology shifts to the practice – that is similar to have an additional 1.56 radiologists available for reading and interpretation.

Create Your Own System

There are several things to consider if you want to launch a radiology concierge service for your practice, Humphrey said. To be sure you cover all your bases, he suggested following this check list:

  • Identify a project manager
  • Develop a scope of work for your PRAs
  • License and install all the needed software for your smart worklist and hardware for any new workstations
  • Set up a toll-free phone number
  • Determine hours of operation for the service (weekdays, weekends, nights, 24/7, etc.)
  • Recruit and hire PRAs
  • Establish a workflow protocol
  • Build a knowledge database for PRAs, including radiologist, referring physician, and technologist contact information; radiologist subspecialties, schedules, and preferences; and technologist locations and modalities

And, above all, he said, test the service extensively before you officially launch it.

If you have these pieces in place, he said, you will create a service that can set you and your colleagues up for the greatest level of success.

“These programs free up the radiologist to focus on practicing at the top of their license,” he said. “Radiologists should always be asking themselves, ‘What is the best use of my time right now?’ Radiology concierge programs help them to focus on that.”

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