By Tina Crain, CRA, MS, CNMT, RT(R)(N)(QM) and Kimberly Smith, PhD, RT(R)
Scheduling is the beginning of the patient’s imaging experience and provides the first impression. At the University of Kansas Hospital, an unpleasant first experience for patients was caused by long call wait times, schedulers’ lack of imaging-specific knowledge, and the inability to schedule exams in a timely manner. Complaints from both patients as well as referring providers continued. Scheduling staff felt intimidated, uninformed, and underappreciated, which led to turnover.
A decision was made to think of radiology scheduling as a modality, which would create a sense of ownership and accountability for our scheduling staff. With this in mind, supervision of the scheduling department was changed from an office supervisor to a clinical supervisor. A requirement for the supervisor was 3-5 years clinical experience in one or more imaging modalities. The goal of having a clinical supervisor for scheduling was to allow the transfer of clinical knowledge to our scheduling staff.
“Lunch and learn” sessions were created, each focusing on one modality at a time. Schedulers were asked to submit questions ahead of time and the clinical supervisor or modality supervisor would incorporate those questions into the session. The scheduling team is expected to have a basic understanding of all modalities, and as such, all scheduling staff tours all the locations in which they schedule imaging studies. This allows them the opportunity to visualize locations as well as have a perception of the patient experience. Many times schedulers are asked to provide directions and this gives them the opportunity to do so accurately.
Departmental stretch goals were also put into place. An automatic call attendant (ACD) was installed. This allows for call distribution amongst the scheduling staff. A benefit of the ACD was productivity measurement. Analyses included call response time, abandon call rate, and number of calls by scheduler. At first the team was apprehensive, but once goals were set the schedulers became engaged. Productivity by scheduler, departmental call response time, and abandon rates are distributed at the beginning of each month to the staff. The scheduling teams embraced these goals and were inspired to create their own monthly goal for the team to achieve.
The clinical supervisor created a “help desk” concept for issue resolution. Before the “help desk” concept started, the scheduler would call the imaging modality for assistance. On one day alone our MRI staff answered more than 40 calls, and answering these calls interferes with scanning of patients. The implementation of the “help desk” has enabled the scheduler to send the caller to the next level: the clinical supervisor. The response of the “help desk” concept has been received positively amongst both our customers and the imaging staff. The customer is no longer put on hold while the scheduler contacts the modality.
In conclusion, the implementation of a clinical supervisor has been a positive move for the scheduling modality. The staff feels empowered to answer questions, they respond to calls in a timely manner, and their overall error rate has reduced. The answer is “yes” to clinical supervision for radiology scheduling.
Tina Crain, CRA, MS, CNMT, RT(R)(N)(QM) is the assistant director of radiology at University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, KS. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Kimberly Smith, PhD, RT(R) is the director of radiology at University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, KS.