Ready to Hit the Ground Running
Andrea Lutz | 2017-07-26
The Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) is the largest health region in the province of Saskatchewan, serving approximately 350,000 local residents and offering them a strong promise: “Every moment is an opportunity to create a positive experience in the way we treat and care for people and in how we deliver quality service. We promise to seize every opportunity.” A major part of realizing this aspiration is to provide state-of-the-art imaging options to patients, quickly diagnose diseases, and identify the best possible treatments. “It’s a daily commitment to provide compassionate care, while also being responsible with our resources,” explains Shane Timm, Director of Medical Imaging and Nuclear Medicine. But all three SHR hospital locations have experienced a record high in the number of MRI exams performed year over year.
With a rapidly growing and aging population in Saskatchewan, the demand for MRI services is at a peak, and SHR is facing a growing challenge to provide timely MRI services to the patients in the region. In 2014 the Canadian Press reported a 23-day wait for urgent cases, 93 days for semi-urgent cases, and 140 days for non-urgent cases. “Increasing throughput would have been an easy task if there was ample funding available, but the funding doesn’t match the demand – so we needed to find other ways to ensure that capacity keeps pace with the growing demand,” says Timm.
That’s why SHR enlisted Siemens Healthineers Transformation and Advisory Services to identify efficiencies that could increase throughput, decrease the wait times, and pinpoint some options to optimize the hospitals’ MRI services. Timm decided on a partner that shares his values: “Siemens Healthineers is passionately committed to helping healthcare institutions like ours fine-tune our operations, while recognizing the constraints that all of us in the healthcare field face.”
Fine-tuning operations to deliver the best possible services
The primary objective of the advisory team was to evaluate the current state of MRI services. Interviews were conducted with 13 different staff – from directors to technologists and schedulers – in order to understand the current state of operations and identify areas for improvement. Utilization management reports were also made available across SHR’s three hospitals. The detailed data provided insights into workflows and processes, wait times, exam durations, and no-shows and helped establish when the equipment was being used at a high capacity level and the times of days when the machines were idle.
Christina Dawson, Manager of Nuclear Medicine and PET/CT Services, enjoyed working as equal partners: “It was great to know that the Siemens Healthineers advisory team working with us had a background in diagnostic imaging. The recommendations they offered were all well-thought-out, actionable, and based on a thorough investigation and understanding of not only national and global best practices but our hospitals’ operations as well.”
The Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) is the largest health region in the province of Saskatchewan, serving over 336,000 residents in over 100 cities and communities across the province.
Services are provided at over 75 healthcare facilities. The SHR oversees three hospitals (Royal University Hospital, Saskatoon City Hospital, and St. Paul’s Hospital) with approximately 808 acute-care beds. The integrated health delivery agency provides a comprehensive range of services and programs, including but not limited to hospital and long-term care, public health and home care, mental health and addiction services, and prenatal and palliative care.
Freeing up more capacity throughout the system
A number of the recommendations were related to scheduling efficiency. In the case of non-contrast patients, exam slots could be reduced from one hour to 45 minutes, allowing for the average 26 minutes for the exam and room clearing. Over the course of a day, saving just 15 minutes per non-contrast patient could add significant capacity. Overall, it was found that over 1,500 additional exams per year could be performed by scheduling more patients during periods of low utilization.
Reducing the incidence of no-shows
Another opportunity that was identified by the advisory team was to increase the collaboration between the two radiologist groups that provide services to SHR’s hospital sites. More coordination could easily lead to increased service consistency and standardization of processes, both of which were desired by hospital management. The possibility of moving to Web-based direct order entry for all referrals was recommended to help eliminate missing information and reduce the time requirements for follow-up by scheduling staff. An auto-notification function could also be incorporated to remind patients about appointments and help reduce the incidence of no-shows.
While the changes that have been implemented are already bearing fruit, it is paramount that continuous measurement and analysis is performed on a regular basis. Here is Timm’s conclusion thus far: “All the recommendations were solid and insightful. While our implementation schedule is ambitious, as with any change it will take time. Changing protocols requires the involvement of many other stakeholders, and while immediate benefits will be realized from the changes we’ve already made, we’re looking forward to working with our colleagues to make some of the more long-term improvements.”
About the Author
Andrea Lutz is a journalist and business trainer specialized on medical topics, technology or healthcare IT. She lives in Nuremberg, Germany.
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