Exploring Unfamiliar Terrain
By Karen Jenkins
In late February 2014 I was given the joint role of Director of Rehab and Radiology Services at Adena Health System in Chillicothe, OH. I was new to radiology but not to management, having served as the director of rehab for the last four years. My experience with radiology up to that point included performing modified barium swallows as a speech therapist and working alongside the previous director on division and health system initiatives. I was looking forward to the new opportunity and learning a new area of healthcare; however, moving from an area that I knew very well to one which was unfamiliar to me was daunting.
Immediately I sought out opportunities to learn more about my new area, and the various management tools provided by AHRA were just what I needed. Soon after joining AHRA, I registered to attend the Annual Meeting in Washington, DC and received information about the Partners in Learning program. I submitted my application and was excited when I received my acceptance letter just a few weeks later.
My goal for Partners in Learning was to observe another radiology department’s management of day-to-day operations, see best practice processes implemented, and discuss their approach/thoughts on hot topics in imaging. Reading about something and seeing it are two different things, and I looked forward to the opportunity to “do” and “see.” I knew this experience would help me develop personally and professionally, and I hoped to be able to use what I learned to make a positive impact back home.
My Partners in Learning visit took place at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, PA with their administrator of diagnostic services, Cathy Story. Cathy set up several opportunities for me to learn and grow. We started off with a Q&A on operations, and I learned about the various operating hours for her modalities and how they adjust practices for the different locations based on patient and provider demands. We discussed the different modalities’ call policies and the radiologists’ role in approving calling technologists in for afterhours consults. I was able to attend both a radiology managers’ meeting as well as two staff meetings. We discussed patient experience scores and opportunities as well as new quality audits that the team is initiating.
I was able to meet with several modality managers and see what processes Lehigh has established in imaging services. One best practice I observed is the onsite service and maintenance of their imaging equipment. This service is provided by a team of well-trained clinical engineering staff who attend external training for each piece of equipment they purchase. They help reduce downtime and lost revenue by providing a first look on all equipment issues and getting rooms back up and running quickly. They use a cost ratio to show the value of their onsite service and fall significantly below the cost of full service agreements maintained by the OEMs.
Lehigh is also in the process of initiating an inventory tracking and billing system for radiology supplies and charges in IR, CT, and Ultrasound. Once this process is fully launched, they will be able to capture all supply charges in real time, assist radiologists with more economic decision making with supplies, and easily replenish supplies.
A new hot topic that Lehigh staff has already addressed is the impact of radiation on insulin pumps. The team shared how they addressed the issue by adding questions about diabetes into their patient intake process and also discussed some unique scenarios they encountered.
I also had to the opportunity to see Lehigh’s RFP process in action. It involves a comprehensive team consisting of radiology administration, clinical engineering, a buyer, and a physicist. Lehigh uses preliminary quotes to receive capital approval and then requests comprehensive RFP from potential vendors. Top choices are then invited onsite for a presentation to the team and radiology medical director. After the onsite presentations, site visits are arranged for the top two or three choices before a final decision is made.
I am extremely grateful to Cathy, Lehigh Valley Health Network, AHRA, and GE Healthcare for this wonderful opportunity. This experience could not have gone any better; my time was well spent and my knowledge was enhanced extensively through this Partners in Learning experience.
Karen Jenkins is the director of rehab and radiology services at Adena Health System in Chillicothe, OH. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.