Learning from Shared Challenges through PIL

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Tim BryantBy Timothy P. Bryant, CRA, MBA, RT(R)(N)

In 2007, I retired from the US Air Force. I had served for 20 years, 17 of which were in the radiology field. While I had a great handle on the science of radiology, the business aspect was quite foreign to me. I had just completed an MBA in Healthcare Management, so I had an idea how things worked, but no practical experience. The military healthcare system is essentially a single payer system, so the concepts of pre-authorizations and denials were not something I had worked with before. Upon my retirement, I relocated from Alaska to Southeast Georgia. For the first six years of my new career, I was the manager of radiology and cardiopulmonary services at the smaller of the two hospitals for Southeast Georgia Health System, a 40 bed community hospital with limited service lines. In March of 2014, I received an offer to serve as the radiology operations manager at our larger 300 bed acute care hospital located 40 miles north. This move brought new challenges and opportunities not available at the smaller facility. With a desire to expand my knowledge and awareness of how other healthcare facilities operate, I applied for the Partners in Learning program.

On August 4 and 5, 2014, I was given the opportunity to visit Stamford Medical Center in Stamford, CT. Upon arrival, I was impressed with the facility layout as well as the new hospital being built next door. I was greeted by Beth Ann Vara, Director of Radiology. After a brief meet and greet and breakfast with the radiology leadership team, Beth Ann took me on a whirlwind tour of the many facilities that the Stamford Radiology Department operates. First was the main hospital that housed imaging modalities and the administrative staff. Then we visited the offsite imaging centers located at Darien, Chelsea Piers, and the Tully Center. The Tully Center was the most impressive of the imaging centers, with a full-service women’s imaging center that provides real time reads during designated hours for mammography services. At the end of the day, the leadership team invited me out for appetizers. It was a wonderful first day, and the staff’s hospitality was amazing.

The second day was just as much of a whirlwind. I met with several of the leaders one-on-one to discuss specific processes. Some of my interests were teleradiology and voice recognition. Stamford Medical Center, it turns out, uses the same teleradiology provider that we use at Southeast Georgia Health System. They have experienced many of the same challenges and offered up some very good suggestions. I then met with the PACS Administrator who had set up their Powerscribe 360 voice recognition system. Since our health system is going to be utilizing that same system, I got some great tips for our upcoming start-up. We also discussed the facility’s process for pre-registration and pre-authorization of procedures.

The most impressive part of day two was our off-site visit the Centralized Scheduling office. I learned that actual schedulers were used in the marketing process of the service, as they are the best ones to answer how they handle the daily call volumes that come into their center. After lunch, Beth Ann and I discussed some of their process improvement successes, and we exchanged ideas on future PI projects. I then met with the other PACS Administrator who was instrumental in working with the teleradiology provider that both of our facilities utilize. The service at their facility featured both on-site and remote radiologists. We only use the remote services. We exchanged ideas and experiences with our common provider of remote reading services, and I walked away with more very good ideas.

At the end of the trip I was certainly worn out but felt that I came away with some great experiences I can share at my health system. I can’t say enough about the hospitality of the staff, the warm welcome I received, and all of the time that Beth Ann carved out of her schedule those two days to make sure I had a good tour and learned everything I wanted to. I want to thank AHRA, GE Healthcare, and Stamford Medical Center (especially Beth Ann and the rest of the leadership team) for a wonderful two days.

Timothy P. Bryant, CRA, MBA, RT(R)(N) is the manager of imaging services at Southeast Georgia Health System-Camden Campus in Saint Marys, GA. He can be reached at tbryant@sghs.org.

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