Put Some Beer in Their Fridge!

If you are a hospital radiology manager or executive, you may view the radiology group you have contracted with as all take and no give, just like that annoying nephew who keeps drinking all your beer.  Sure, they do a fine job reading your exams, but you pay them handsomely for it, and they keep requesting things like new workstations and interfaces. Conversely, if you are an IT manager for a radiology group or Managed Services Organization (MSO), you should pay heed to how your group is perceived, and work hard to minimize any annoyances.  Better yet, you need to provide clients value beyond the basic services you have been contracted for.  Put some beer in their fridge, so to speak. But how?

As radiology practices look for these new ways to provide hospital clients with value beyond cost control, subspecialty, and 24/7 reading services, we see the best received efforts being those that help them understand and manage their entire imaging service. This involves going beyond understanding turnaround time and study volumes by modality, as (hopefully) these are already understood. Rather, forward thinking groups are trying to help their hospital and imaging center clients understand their non-clinical and clinical operations, including the impact of non-diagnostic clinical activities on cost, quality of care and reimbursement. Basically, using analytics to provide an understanding of the entire integrated operation as if it were a single entity.

Achieving such a goal requires the seamless gathering and sharing of information across organizations and locations with a sophisticated approach to analytics that make this easy and cost efficient for all. The radiology group’s IT team will likely be tasked with identifying the integration points for gathering the necessary data and ensuring the relevant information can be captured, visualized and shared among all parties in across the organization.

This presents a unique challenge from both an integration and operations perspective, as it requires viewing a customer as a partner; the service provider only wins when the client wins. This necessitates IT integrating with client systems as well as the systems owned by the MSO, which can be hamstrung by political challenges, never mind the technical challenges. Keeping things simple and inexpensive are really important for minimizing demands on the client hospital’s IT team and maximizing the likelihood of success. We see the following as key factors when planning for a cross-enterprise analytics solution implementation:

  • Partner with or acquire an analytics platform versus building one yourself – never fool yourself that your IT project team can successfully be turned into a commercial software development team (the road is littered with the corpses of teams that have tried).
  • Ensure your partner provides a hosted analytics solution to minimize upfront hardware costs, speed rollout and minimize ongoing hardware support demands.
  • Utilize an analytics solution that doesn’t require your IT team to become data analytics experts, SQL programmers or knowledgeable about the reporting language.
  • Don’t purchase outright an analytics product; rather, pay per study or rent the application, thereby limiting long-term commitment to any given vendor or solution.
  • Never choose a solution that charges per user or per seat, as you want to encourage access to the system instead of limiting or dis-incentivizing it.
  • Learn about forthcoming hospital and government reporting requirements and radiology performance measures, and be sure your analytics platform can report on those to your client.
  • Choose a self-service analytics platform that empowers all clinical and business users to quickly answer their own questions, without requiring your IT department to develop custom reports.
  • Choose a cloud provider so that the analytics platform can be used by your entire team, regardless of location.
  • Choose a solution that can easily segment data access by role so that you can allow your hospital clients to also sign on to your analytics platform without compromising data privacy of your other clients.

Do most or all of the above, and you haven’t just put beer in their fridge, you have stocked it with their favorite hoppy microbrew and mounted a fancy bottle opener on the side!

With business relationships changing quickly and industry consolidation a strategic trend, IT leaders at radiology groups must be able to move quickly and optimize the use of available resources. Fletch famously said of jet maintenance “it’s all ball bearings these days”, but in healthcare, it’s all about the software, and integration and interoperability among systems can be a killer. As the business models of radiology groups continue evolving, the need to monitor a range of financial, operational and clinical metrics is likely to only increase. With the creation of virtual connected organizations on the rise, the need to measure performance will not abate and IT leaders need to step up to help maximize profit margins and revenue, despite the uncertainty caused by new payment models and value-based imaging.