Providing value: MRI sites improve efficiency, increase revenue after interpersonal skills training

Training MRI staff members with in interpersonal skills is associated with improved efficiency and increased revenue, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Patients occasionally experience discomfort and even claustrophobia during MRI examinations—sometimes, they are unable to sit still and there is a need for sedation. So, the study’s authors thought, why not teach staff members how to better handle such situations?

Teams at two hospital-based facilities and two freestanding imaging sites were trained in evidence-based communication skills from February to April 2015. They learned how to help patients cope with distress experienced during before, during and after the exam. Data was collected from before and after the training sessions.

The authors examined more than 12,00 outpatient MRI visits. Before the training, events associated with “prolonging throughput once patients showed at the facility” took place 9 percent of the time at hospital-based facilities and 3.8 percent of the time at freestanding imaging sites. After training, those numbers dropped to 5.5 percent at hospital-based facilities and 1.2 percent at freestanding imaging sites.

In addition, disruptive motion, incompletions and the use of oral sedation all decreased after training. At freestanding imaging sites, no-shows slightly decreased and disruptive motions and incompletions saw “a significant decrease.”

Looking specifically at cost savings, operational costs per 1,000 scheduled patients dropped more than $4,000 at the hospital-based facilities. This translates to an increase in profit of more than $8,000 per 1,000 scheduled patients. At freestanding imaging sites, operational costs increased by more than $1,500 per 1,000 scheduled patients, but profit increased more than $12,000 per 1,000 scheduled patients.

“We found that providing team training in interpersonal skills to MRI staff members working at two sites within an academic medical center was associated with reductions in sedation use, disruptive motion or repeat scans, and incomplete scans, wrote lead author Joseph A. Ladapo, MD, PhD, at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles, and colleagues. “The changes in efficiency we observed after training may have been due to interpersonal skills training or other factors, which is difficult to ascertain in a pre–post, nonrandomized design. These reductions translated into operational cost savings in hospital MRI sites and an increase in revenue and profit.”

Providing two days of training, Ladapo and colleagues added, costs more than $700 per technologist. “These costs would be recovered at a rate proportional to the number of patients seen at the center, with more rapid recovery of upfront costs at centers with higher patient volumes,” the authors wrote. “The return on investment would likely be favorable for most MRI centers training their staff in interpersonal skills.”