By Darian Sutton, CRA, RT(R)
Human civilization moves forward largely because of technological advancements which are dependent upon history’s geniuses. Our current technological revolution has been made possible by an army of geniuses: programmers, designers, freethinkers, and entrepreneurs. Every manager has their own geniuses who come up with great ideas that help their department, or who just have an outlook that positively impacts the department’s culture. As the business of healthcare becomes more complex and uncertain, and change comes at an ever faster pace, we need to find our own army of geniuses. We need to share that information freely amongst each other to help the radiology field, and healthcare in general, meet the needs of this new age. This is, at its heart, the reason why AHRA was founded.
I was fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of AHRA’s Partners in Learning program and fly from my small town of Roundup, Montana, to a small town called Taylor in Texas. The hospital in Taylor is a Critical Access Hospital that belongs to the Baylor Scott & White system. My host was Gerard Wilson, CRA, Imaging Services Manager for Baylor Scott & White Round Rock Medical Center.
There has been a lot of attention focused on breaking down “silos” in recent years as hospital administrators and managers have realized that a lack of interdepartmental collaboration is harming everyone. As this happens, radiology becomes more integrated into the general business of healthcare. More and more, radiology managers are being asked to step out of their traditional radiology roles and learn new things.
As Gerard and I got to know each other, we talked about our roles and responsibilities. In my own role I am not only the radiology administrator, but also IT coordinator, HIPAA security officer, and assistant hospital administrator, as well as having the lab and physical therapy managers reporting to me. Many of my duties do not relate directly to radiology in any way. My host had similar stories: “I suddenly found myself in charge of a call center… I had no idea what kind of metrics were used to evaluate productivity of a call center.” – Gerard Wilson
I was really struck by how much of a partnership this visit was. It was interesting to see how perspectives from a different geographical area can lead to dramatically different ideas. In Montana, we have avenues to exchange ideas on a local or regional level, but traveling this far away put me in proximity to very different ideas.
I returned with a list of improvements it will take me a year (or more) to implement, and a few that I was able to knock out right away. I had been contemplating creating a communication board for some time. Roundup Memorial Hospital is currently in a coaching engagement with the Studer Group, and one of their suggestions is a communication board that factors in certain prescribed elements but leaves much open to development. One of the first things I saw when I got to Taylor, Texas was a communication board layout that was exactly what I was looking for! I have already copied the format in my own department (with their permission) and have plans to share this with other leaders throughout my hospital.
It is very easy, even natural, to get into a rut in an organization, with some important conversations not being held. When a new player enters the field and starts asking questions, digging into what is working well and what is not working well, new conversations happen. During one such conversation with Gerard, I realized there were some administrative best practices that I had fallen considerably behind on. My hospital is not a Joint Commission accredited hospital; if it were, some of these would be mandated. As the only radiology leader in my hospital, conversations about things such as documentation of competencies do not come up and are easily dropped, as no one is looking for these but me. This worked both ways. As I toured Round Rock’s new Cancer Center, I was able to identify some improvements that were needed that, after speaking with Gerard, I found he was not fully aware of. He seemed genuinely grateful for the information and was able to address the situation promptly.
This visit was an unexpected gift. My greatest fear was that I would be a drain on my host’s staff, requiring them to put time and energy into me with little in return. Upon leaving, Gerard made sure that I knew he really felt I had given as much as I received. I came back with some best practices to implement (helping me meet one of my strategic goals for this year), input from various non-radiology departments that helped me get a broader view of my new duties, and the satisfaction of knowing I was able to give value back to my host organization as well.
Darian Sutton, CRA, RT(R) is the ancillary services director and HIPAA security officer at Roundup Memorial Healthcare in Roundup, MT. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.