Communicating Critical Test Results: Fostering Collaboration and Improving Care
September 23, 2015
As a sales engineer for Spok and a former administrator of a hospital radiology department, I make an effort to stay up to date with happenings in the radiology world. A few weeks ago, I read this AuntMinnie.com piece by Dr. David Hirschorn, director of radiology informatics at Staten Island University Hospital. A well-known expert in radiology systems and processes, Dr. Hirschorn illustrates the two primary communication barriers in radiology: “Whom do I call?” and “How do I reach her or him?”
These were obstacles for my former department, and are concerns that so many healthcare organizations are still grappling with today. Radiology was the first hospital department to become computerized with the advent of the picture archiving and communication system (PACS). Ironically, as image capture, transmission, and storage became better, communication between radiologists and physicians actually deteriorated. As Dr. Bob Wachter points out in The Digital Doctor (see more on this from Spok’s CEO), radiologists became much more isolated with PACS and lost the face-to-face time going over films with physicians. The key is to use technology to foster collaboration between the two groups despite differences in physical locations and schedules.
With these communication hurdles, Dr. Hirschorn says it can be tempting for hospitals to rationalize that special communication isn’t necessary and forgo the purchase of a CTRM communication system. However, this is not in the best interest of patient care, and it’s also not a best practice for a department that is looking for ways to decrease their risk of exposure to potential malpractice lawsuits. As radiology departments are among the practice groups most susceptible to potential patient litigation radiology practitioners must provide adequate documentation of their activities in order to protect themselves and encourage transparency.
Although a CTRM solution doesn’t directly generate revenue, the financial benefits come in different ways. When radiology departments purchase something, they immediately want to see the ROI. When they purchase an expensive piece of imaging equipment, they can usually count on recouping that money in a matter of months through revenue generated by new tests. CTRM applications are quality of care solutions, so the ROI may take more time to present itself. However, hospitals may be able to receive reduced radiology malpractice insurance rates. A company like SaferMD can translate that into 15-20 percent risk management credits on malpractice insurance, according to its managing member, Dr. Brian Gale.
And there is much more than just the financial ROI: A CTRM solution like we offer at Spok is really an investment in reducing costs and wasted time (cutting out those manual processes) which translates into increased productivity. Most importantly, it’s an investment in improving staff satisfaction and providing better patient care. It creates a closed loop of communication that helps speed treatment for critical test result patients as well as discharge for patients whose results are normal.
By David Skoug, R.T.R.Dave Skoug is a critical test results sales engineer at Spok. He spent 20 years as the administrator of radiology at a 550-bed hospital in the upper Midwest.