Did you know that most sonographers are frustrated with their workflow speed? If you are reading this, there is a chance that you might be one of them.
The growth and use of ultrasound technology has been exploding in recent years. As a result, the healthcare industry is perceiving many great benefits such as reduced equipment costs, a wider range of diagnostic applications, and better image quality. These medical advancements also spark new challenges such as dealing with the growing complexity of studies, and the increased volume of images.
With added responsibilities, and less time to do them, how can you improve your workflow productivity in your healthcare practice?
We’ve put together a list of ways that have helped healthcare organizations improve their workflow, and boost their efficiency. Testing these solutions could mean better work conditions, enhanced patient satisfaction, decreased exam times, and of course, reduced costs.
1. Automate Workflow Processes
Do you find yourself spending a lot of time printing, scanning, and filing images or documents when this time could be better spent taking care of patients? Some of this manual repetitive work you do every day could be automated. These workflow issues can cause physicians to lose up to 20% productivity with an EMR .
Workflow automation means to integrate a set of applications designed to remove manual, paper-based administrative, and clinical processes from the healthcare system . We’ll go over a few solutions below.
2. Implement Image Management Technology
Picture Archiving and Communication System, or PACS, is a solution for storing, retrieving, managing, distributing, and presenting medical images across a growing practice.
However, larger healthcare organizations who are already using different PACS sometimes choose to implement an enterprise-wide Vendor Neutral Archive, or VNA, for interoperability, rather than upgrading to a newer PACS, as they may find them ineffective or simply outdated .
In either cases, these technologies offer a chance to boost workflow and efficiency by eliminating the need to manually file, retrieve, or transport medical images or documents.
3. Use Ultrasound Scanning Protocols
Ultrasound protocols are detailed instructions of how an ultrasound scan should be performed to establish the exact images that constitute a comprehensive examination. These should be easily available as they are crucial for an ultrasound section to operate smoothly .
- It is much easier for sonographers to conform to the organization’s standards
- The guesswork is taken out, and the pressure is reduced on new sonographers
- The ultrasound examinations are independent of the staff on service that day
- Annotations are uniform, and so there is no time spent deciphering codes, or trying to compare different views of a pathology.
Using protocols in an ultrasound department can significantly improve its efficiency while ensuring consistency and adherence to accreditation guidelines. An interesting whitepaper on how protocols helped the University of Colorado realize a 20% increase in patients seen each day can be found here.
4. Get the right productivity tools for your ultrasound station
Different productivity tools are available depending on the brand and model of your ultrasound equipment. Some of these are offered as optional features, and it may be time for a well-worth system upgrade!
An example is the advanced 5D diagnostic set of tools found on the Samsung Medison WS80A ultrasound system which are especially designed for workflow. 5D technology is a form of automation that uses volume data to provide diagnostic planes, and auto populates the results of a scan for you , something that can take a very long time to achieve otherwise. Operator dependency is reduced, and patient throughput it improved.
Another example of productivity tool is the Scan Assistant available on the GE Logiq & Voluson ultrasound series. A study revealed that it can reduce keystrokes by up to 79%, potentially reducing exam time by 54% ! While this tool is great for abdominal scans, it may be difficult to get a specific picture for baby scans as they tend to move.
The Power Assistant from GE can also help decrease system shutdown and reboot time by 90%, providing excellent productivity for portable exams. Various measurement and productivity packages are also available for measurement-intensive exams.
5. Rearrange, modify, or better utilize current space and resources
When a company grows, staff is hired, additional equipment is purchased, and resources are increased. Among the growing pains, taking time to reevaluate how everything is utilized or positioned falls low on the list of priorities. Non-value travel time may be plaguing the organization.
Improving workflow, and efficiency might be as straightforward as relocating workstations, modifying existing rooms with facilities, or divert patients to the level of most appropriate care to streamline workflow .
Investing in a shared service ultrasound machine can be a smart move, as a wider range of applications can be supported into one system, allow multiple sonographers to better utilize the same space at once, assuming automated workflow processes are set in place.
An interesting case study on Lakeland Medical Center ED can be found here. They significantly improved their patient throughput and patient experience by better utilizing their space.
6. Hire Sonographer Assistants
Under the supervision of an attending sonographer, assistants can perform special procedures, “Scribe” preliminary reports, and perform other clerical functions. Their inclusion in the workflow can save many hours a day, and has been found to provide an excellent return on investment .
7. Go Mobile
Moving patients to the echo lab, and back can actually take a lot more time than simply rolling in a portable ultrasound machine to perform the examination. Patient’s discomfort due to prolonged wait times is also avoided .
Many portable ultrasound systems today have similar or better features than traditional ultrasound machines. As an example, the Philips CX50 offers premium performance, a wide range of applications, top-notch image quality including 4D, as well as advanced features such as PureWave, and xMatrix technology.
We’ve put together a free guide to the best portable ultrasound machines available on the market.
8. Take Breaks
Yes, taking regular breaks is one of the best ways to increase productivity, and minimize errors. Studies have shown that taking non-taxing, enjoyable breaks can restore your focus, improve your mental health, and bring your full capacity back .
Which solutions do you need?
In conclusion, different solutions may be needed for different healthcare organizations. The best approach is to observe the current workflow, conduct data analysis, staff interviews, and identify potential areas of improvement.
If you have any questions, or would like professional recommendations on the right ultrasound equipment for your needs, please contact us today!