I recently had the opportunity to earn a “Lean Black Belt for Healthcare” certificate from the Institute of Industrial Engineers.  For an industry in crisis, like healthcare, lean principles that focus on quality, waste elimination and broad-based employee involvement, are just what the doctor ordered.

As radiologists look to align with the industry’s overall shift from volume to value, and take a leaner approach to their role in the care continuum, our specialty is being called to the table to demonstrate impact beyond the expected interpretation of patient images.  With evolving payment models in mind, and the vision for Imaging 3.0, radiologists must make a concerted effort to put greater emphasis on quality, service, efficiency and the patient experience.  The reality being that the key to success for radiologists in this new model of care is not to read more exams, but rather, to produce higher quality exams more efficiently so that we can demonstrate greater direct impact on patient care.

 

Invest time and resources in value-added services

Part of what I was reminded of in my Black Belt training was this – in our evolving healthcare delivery model, providers that find ways to continuously drive improvements and efficiencies in processes will be those who survive.  That is why my team has embarked upon on a dedicated journey based on tracking value-added services and activities such as time-saved in daily activities, as well as time devoted to: CMEs, conferences, committees, teaching and research.  In fact, over the past year alone, we’ve put in more 3,000 hours of value-added services.

As a result of our focus on value-added services and commitment to driving lean processes, the executive leadership team at Elkhart General Hospital has asked me to present to other committees associated with the organization so that they too can use this model to evolve ahead of industry standards.  In addition to prioritizing value-added services, we’ve also begun to meticulously monitor and benchmark key performance indicators – ranging from various turnaround time metrics, to hours of transcription, and even national publication inclusions.

Perform, quantify, document and demonstrate your impact

While these are challenging times for all of us in the healthcare industry, it’s important to remember this: they key to success is based on your ability to continuously find ways to improve.  Moreover, to prove your critical role in the healthcare delivery system value chain, you must focus on quantifying, documenting and communicating your efforts consistently to hospital administrators and referring physicians.

It’s not enough to just be good at what you do any more, you have to be great and you need real-time insight into metrics and performance in order to drive toward excellence.  At Elkhart, we measure 100 metrics on an annual basis.  While it may add a few minutes here and there for our radiologists, the return on investment as a result of our ability to mine data and course correct to power performance is worth every minute spent on tracking and reporting.  As H. James Harrington said, “If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”

 

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Dr. Samir Patel

About Dr. Samir Patel

This was a contributed post by Samir Patel, MD, who has been part of the Radiology, Inc. team since July 2001 and is also chairman of the radiology department at Elkhart General Hospital. If you're interested in more content like this, visit the Healthcare section of the blog.