Major Mammography Practice: Enjoying Rewards of Remote Service

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 - for-medical-physicists

Patient-centric care is so important to Solis Mammography that every member of its staff keeps a “Promise Book” containing the practice’s guiding principles close at hand. The book offers an important reminder to the 600 or so team members spanning 44 sites: “Our promise is an exceptional experience, exceptionally accurate results and peace of mind for everyone we serve.”

One key to consistently delivering on all three parts of that pledge is maximizing uptime, according to Cathy Wilson, Solis’s VP of operations in North Texas. As a working technologist, she knows firsthand how machine downtime can lead to broken promises. She puts the problem in perspective with great economy of words. “If a mammography unit is down,” she says, “it isn’t helping anyone.”

Last year, that simple fact prompted Solis to begin expanding its use of Hologic Connect, a highly secure uptime-management software solution from Hologic that lets the company service installed equipment remotely.

Hologic Connect spares Solis from experiencing downtimes due to optional onsite visits from Hologic field service engineers (FSEs). It supplies predictive services, heading off troubles before they materialize. And it gathers utilization and performance data on equipment as well as personnel, enabling analytics that can improve practices’ quality, efficiency and strategic planning.

A foundational form of the remote component has been in place for years, but it’s only recently that Hologic decided to “beef it up” and remind customers it’s there for them.

Hologic Connect has already become “a critical part of our service offerings,” explains Jennifer Meade, the company’s vice president of customer experience, service and support. “The idea is to give our customers the ability to achieve better uptimes and to give them a preferred service channel. They may still prefer to have an engineer work on site, and that’s fine. We want to give them the maximum possible uptime and the fastest issue resolution possible with whatever channel they prefer.”

Meade doesn’t hesitate to voice her excitement over what the new and improved Hologic Connect will do for Solis and many other Hologic customers.

“We are not just paying lip service to remote service and predictive maintenance. We want to be the leader in this space, and we are making the investments to get there,” she says. “It’s not just about pulling a log file and understanding an error code. It’s about providing faster issue resolutions and helping our customers maximize their uptimes and optimize their practices.”

Secure, private and convenient

For Solis Mammography, which serves more than 700,000 patients per year in six states plus the nation’s capital, the concept of ASAP remote troubleshooting was instantly appealing but initially concerning.

“We resisted in the beginning, asking a lot of questions about security and privacy,” Wilson recalls. “We were worried about things like who had access to protected health information. It took us a little while to get fully on board.”

The practice went all in with Hologic Connect in its busiest location, Fort Worth, before adopting it elsewhere. Not every site is using it yet, but Wilson says she and her colleagues are now confident in the system’s security. She expects all Solis sites to eventually come online, each at their own pace.

“It’s not like they can fix everything remotely. They can’t give me a new detector that way,” she says with a chuckle. “But they can sure help us with software glitches, power failures, just a variety of things.”

What won Wilson over on the security and privacy front? The trust she’d developed in Hologic FSEs over the years since she joined Solis back in 2009. Noting that Hologic’s partnership with Solis long predates her arrival and continues to build on numerous collaborative research projects, she says the FSEs themselves helped her understand the impact remote service could have in maximizing uptime while reassuring her on the system’s solid security and restrictive access.

She also found out Hologic Connect can go well beyond remote service.

“We have a lot of standards and protocols that we follow within our mammography units,” Wilson says. “When we set up a new unit, Hologic is able to remote in and pop in those protocols. Not having to have someone come out and physically put those imaging protocols into place—that was a big win for us.”

Data in hand for analyzing—and acting on

And so is Hologic Connect’s capability for remotely assessing error sources, even in real time.

“There are times that errors are created, whether in radiation exposures or quality-control measures,” Wilson says. “We can call them with those issues and they can remotely look into the system to see where the errors are generating from. That is very helpful to the technologist trying to troubleshoot in the moment.”

She runs off a list of sample questions Hologic Connect can quickly help answer in many such situations: Is the unit really going to shut down, as indicated? Did a technologist miss a step or perhaps do something incorrectly? Should a certain step be repeated? If grid failures are coming up, why is that happening?

“It really comes down to expediting the right fix for any particular problem,” Wilson says.

All the while, Hologic Connect is gathering that and other data for performing practice analytics, benchmarking clinical quality and meeting Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) requirements.

“You tell the system what date range you’re looking for, and it prints out a beautiful report,” Wilson says. “It helps track repeat rates or reject rates by reason or cause, which helps you stay proactive in educating your technologists around why they may be repeating exams or having issues with, say, radiation doses.”

Wilson likes that Solis has the choice of generating these kinds of reports both on a scheduled basis and whenever they’re needed. The system automatically runs the reports quarterly for Solis, and “we tend to run reports more when we have new technologists,” Wilson explains, “because we want to make sure they are meeting our expectations on performance.”

Choice of channel

Going forward, Meade is especially eager to see Hologic Connect users take advantage of the system’s predictive power.

“By leveraging the data we collect from systems at our customers’ sites, we will have the ability to predict, in many cases, when a failure of a part is imminent,” she says. “We will alert the customer and our local FSE, then proactively schedule a convenient time to replace the part. In some cases, we will be able to resolve issues remotely as well, avoiding any disruption at all and allowing our customers to focus on their patients.”

Meade also underscores the value that choice of service channel offers to Hologic Connect users.

“A lot of our customers have really good relationships with our field service engineers,” she says, adding that Hologic FSEs will remain an important part of the picture. “At the end of the day, our customers’ priority is maximizing their patient throughput. They would prefer not to have patients waiting unnecessarily if there was a more efficient way to resolve the issue.”

For Wilson and colleagues, uptime may not be a word they use when speaking with patients—but it certainly is there, if only between the lines, in the Solis Mammography Promise Book.

Having a mammography unit down for onsite service “certainly impacts the patient experience”—and “always costs us dollars” as well, she says.

Going by industry averages, a large and busy mammography practice stands to lose as much as $6,000 per day in combined technical and professional revenues when a unit is down for onsite repairs. (That’s based on approximately $4,700 for 3D screening, $700 for unilateral diagnostic and $550 for bilateral diagnostic mammography.)

relationship with Hologic helps, because we believe in the technology and we feel Hologic is the leading resource in mammography imaging right now,” Wilson adds. “So we are looking at, for example, possibly adding contrast-enhanced mammography, which is a program that Hologic has, and we are looking at some different paddles. We have a lot of cool stuff going on with Hologic that will help us serve patients better.” Hologic Connect is on that list too.