How transforming your radiology service line can reduce costs and improve patient satisfaction

Interview with Mark Zielazinski, Chief Information & Technology Integration Office at Marin General Hospital and Richard Towbin, MD, Chief Radiology Officer at Phoenix Children’s Hospital

How transforming your radiology service line can reduce costs, improve patient satisfaction

Hospitals across the nation are looking for ways to alleviate cost pressure and simultaneously improve their strategic planning and innovate to compete in an ever increasingly competitive marketplace.

During a recent webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Philips, a health technology company, Mark Zielazinski, chief information and technology integration officer at Greenbrae, Calif.-based Marin General Hospital and Richard Towbin, MD, chief of radiology at Phoenix Children's Hospital, discussed how their organizations are approaching the unique challenges inherent with the shift to value-based care. During the webinar, they provided these five takeaways.

  1. Make a plan to best utilize your resources. Mr. Zielazinski said Marin General Hospital is trying to best utilize resources in a non-specialized way. For example, he said Marin General Hospital had an electrophysiology lab that was only used for EP studies up until three years ago. This meant the EP lab stood empty and unused a majority of the time. To get more use out of the space, Marin General Hospital updated the lab and turned it into something that can be used by multiple service lines, said Mr. Zielazinski.

When prioritizing technology investments, Phoenix Children's Hospital Radiologist-in-Chief Richard Towbin, MD, said it is all about striking the right balance. "Our choice is to drive excellence and innovation and to manage costs as best we can without choking innovation," he said. The hospital struck this balance when it revamped its radiology service line.

  1. Build a governance structure to help prioritize technology requests. Marin General Hospital is in the process of putting together an enterprise project management organization to better manage technology requests. Under the new organizational structure, all technology requests will be evaluated at the executive level to ensure the hospital is implementing technologies that meet the greatest need in the community and can be utilized by multiple specialties.
  1. Work with payers to focus on higher revenue generating, more complex areas to better compete with outpatient centers. Health insurance companies are increasingly redirecting patients away from hospital-based resources, and Mr. Zielazinski said it's vital to have a delivery model in place that allows Marin General Hospital to compete and not lose that business. "Negotiating with payers and figuring out how we manage our imaging services is going to be critical for us in the future because they're going to increasingly come under scrutiny by the payers," he said.

Dr. Towbin said most hospitals are already exploring ways to compete with the outpatient imaging providers. "A state-of-the-art, high-quality solution, if they're cost competitive, should win that battle provided convenience is reasonable," he said.

  1. Look for ways to leverage new technologies to bring patients to your organization by developing market differentiation. Dr. Towbin said market differentiation is one of Phoenix Children's Hospital's main goals, and the hospital has implemented state-of-the-art technology to help it become a destination for patients. For example, Phoenix Children's Hospital recently installed new spectral computed tomography technology for spectral imaging. It is also the only hospital in Arizona that utilizes a cone-beam CT technology, e.g. EOS for studying the spine.

Dr. Towbin said magnetic resonance and interventional radiology offer the biggest reimbursement when it comes to dollars per unit study. "Plain films and other low tech imaging generally consist of about 80 percent of our total volume. Intervention and neuro are 20 percent but drive 40 percent of the revenue," he said. 

Marin General Hospital is also focused on market differentiation. The hospital, which is the main site for breast care in a three-county area, opened a new breast center about four months ago. The new center utilizes digital breast tomosynthesis, the latest mammogram technology being used for breast cancer screening, which was a significant improvement from the 2D mammography technology the hospital used previously. That upgrade "was a huge patient satisfier," said Mr. Zielazinski.

  1. Don't try to do it alone — leverage partners. Marin General Hospital is building a new 260,000-square-foot replacement hospital and a 100,000-square-foot ambulatory services building. Plans for the new hospital were drafted about four years ago, but since the new facilities are not slated to open until 2020, Marin General Hospital needed to upgrade the radiology department in its current building.

Marin General Hospital needed to update its technology and improve efficiencies. The hospital entered a partnership with Philips about two years ago and began building a strategic plan focused on improving patient satisfaction and utilizing resources in a more efficient way.

Taking out costs was not Marin General Hospital’s sole focus, but Mr. Zielazinski said the hospital cut costs by going fully digital on the diagnostic imaging side, which improved turnaround times. "If you're being efficient and deploying technology in a way that is complementary to one another, costs will be cut out," he said.

Phoenix Children's Hospital also partnered with Philips to create a master plan to innovate, connect and continuously improve its radiology service line.

Listen to the full webinar for additional insights. 

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