How Is Radiology Productivity Measured and Improved?
Productivity in healthcare is the computed labor output per health worker, along with the type of service provided. In radiology, productivity is measured best in general exams; studies show that 80% of radiology practices measure productivity.
Why it's important to measure productivity
Accountability records offer insight into the quality of patient care. For example, patient satisfaction scores affect an imaging center's rankings. A 2018 study indicated that 60% of surveyed individuals seeking healthcare services deferred to their own choice of providers rather than follow their physician's referrals. Patient volumes directly affect revenue.
There are also the following considerations:
- Productivity impacts reimbursement. Medicare/Medicaid and other insurance companies require productivity data to calculate reimbursement monies. Depending upon the radiology department, Medicare payouts may account for 80% of reimbursement dollars.
- Work output reports help find problem areas and improve efficiency.
- Performance data gives insights into staff workload. In addition, knowing how well a staff member performs their job will affect yearly evaluations and raises. This aids facilities in making behavioral changes that improve productivity and quality of care. Without monitoring parameters, some staff and radiologists may do less work, forcing others to do more and creating a tension-filled work environment.
- Upper management and business allies may require productivity analyses to protect patients, the facility, and their vested interests. By observing productivity, companies can determine the budget, hiring, firing, and any necessary changes.
How is radiology productivity measured?
Analytical radiology software can deliver productivity data regarding the type of exam, the length of the exam, the allotted time for procedures, and the shift hours of the individuals performing the tasks. However, the data mentioned here may not include all the factors used to determine productivity.
Physician and staff productivity directly impacts reimbursements rates. Medicare and HMO insurances use relative value units (RVUs) to determine reimbursement for providers. Each RVU has three components with different reimbursement rates:
- Physician Work RVU: time, skill, type of procedure or exam, training, and intensity
- Practice Expenses RVU: staff, rent, and supplies
- Malpractice RVU: professional liability expenses
Billing codes provide the information needed for RVU reimbursement. After insurance companies have computed a compensation amount for all three RVUs, they use a conversion factor to calculate the total refund amount. For these reasons, facilities must use the proper software, like Nova RIS, to improve billing accuracy.
Measuring staff productivity
- A radiologist's productivity reports determine their individual or reading group's reimbursements for services provided.
- A 2012 JACR study in Vancouver showed that radiologists spent 36.4% of their time on image interpretation and had six interactions per hour with other health personnel. Radiologists' non-interpretive duties are not measured and include but are not limited to phone calls with other physicians and attending mandatory meetings.
- Departments calculate X-ray technologists' productivity by the time allotted to exams divided by the length of a work shift (full time or part time). Exam types and times vary. In general radiology, exam times range roughly from ten minutes to 1.5 hours.
Variables that affect productivity
- A patient's ability to maneuver may require longer patient care times.
- Emergencies may take precedence over scheduled outpatient exams.
- The radiology center may require radiologists or technologists for an unknown amount of time.
- Walk-ins, add-ons, and STAT exams deviate from the scheduled workflow.
- Unexpected events occur, such as an anaphylactic reaction to contrast dye during a CT scan.
- The availability of staff and specific services affect daily yield.
- Malfunctions of essential equipment can sideline staff and impact volumes.
Measuring non-clinical duties
Non-clinical duties do not involve medical testing or treatment. Non-clinical roles include but are not limited to medical billers and coders, transcriptionists, hospital executives, and receptionists. As a result, it can be challenging to quantify their productivity accurately and may be excluded or calculated differently. Similar productivity metrics applied to X-ray technologists apply to employees performing non-clinical duties. However, their job descriptions and productivity requirements are unalike.
Ways to improve productivity
- Perform quality control and quality assurance protocols required by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
- Exchange outdated imaging equipment.
- Replace outdated software.
- Stay current on RVU requirements and CPT coding. CPT codes change every five years.
- Offer incentives to staff when productivity metrics are met or exceeded.
- Recognize signs of staff burnout.
- Use software such as NovaPACS to maximize efficiency.
- Studies show that 3% of radiology patients miss pre-scheduled appointments. Utilize software with text appointment notifications, as these decrease no-shows by sending appointment reminders to patients.
- Use analytical software that generates information about productivity and revenue.
- Improve patient satisfaction by giving them easy access to their health records through software such as CryptoChart.
How radiology productivity is measured is an evaluation of skill, time, and quantity of work. Although the process of gathering this data is not perfect, it provides imaging departments with the necessary information to maximize reimbursement dollars, improve efficiency, and remain in business.
Here at Novarad, we believe that the key to a successful imaging center is to work smarter, not harder, to deliver the type of care and outcomes that patients desire.
To see how we can help improve your workflows, feel free to reach out to our workflow specialists today!