Right now, every health system, hospital and physician practice in the U.S. is facing massive change. Saddled with cutbacks and the looming pressure of reimbursement reductions, navigating the continually morphing landscape of healthcare policy is, at times, like climbing a mountain that appears to have no peak. My organization, Memphis Radiological, P.C. (MRPC), which performs all radiological services for Methodist Healthcare System, had a pressing need to find a new way for our team to create and communicate our radiology reports simply by using our voices.
Our team of 50 radiologists and radiology oncologists, and approximately 25 residents, handles everything from cardiac imaging and radiation oncology to pediatric radiology and neuroradiology at Methodist Healthcare, a seven hospital system, which is affiliated with The University of Tennessee’s Le Bonheur Hospital. We create approximately 700,000 reports annually, so in order to ensure diagnoses were communicated in a timely manner to our colleagues and patients, we employed a fleet of around-the-clock transcriptionists and, as a result, had a decent report turnaround time (TAT) that ranged between 15 and 30 minutes. Still, the costs of keeping this 24-hour team up and running were starting to weigh heavy on our organization. Moreover, there was still room for improvement when it came to TAT. In today’s emerging model of care, “real-time” information and data are becoming more of an expectation than a nice to have – and rightly so considering the fact that time lags can directly impact patient care and revenue integrity.
In order to best serve our patient populations, we need to operate as intelligent, lean organizations, and therefore Ben Franklin’s adage “time is money” still holds true. So, although our reports were being communicated quickly by our transcriptionists, the process wasn’t cost-efficient. We carefully weighed our options, taking into account the speech recognition technology we adopted needed to be compatible with Cerner. Having reviewed recommended best practices, our diagnostic team understood both the necessity and the value of the implementation: patient care and cost savings.
The learning curve for our team was swift and within 45-days of our go-live we had 100 percent of our radiologists self-editing their reports. Our reports are now generated in real-time and accessible to colleagues immediately, which means faster care is being delivered to our patients. Additionally, the cost savings have been monumental – well over a million dollars per year.
As radiologists look for new ways to further impact patient care, I expect other hospitals and radiology practices will look to adopt technologies that can intuitively assist physicians in successfully dodging quality and cost-related “boulders.” And, as a fellow physician, I can say with great certainty that implementing voice recognition technology along with our PACS has saved our health system time and money, while also positively impacting the patients we serve.