How one radiology practice dove into the big-data revolution, bolstered productivity by 10%

A Michigan-based private radiology practice is diving head first into data analytics, and doing so without any consultants or outsourcing. While it required a substantial upfront investment, they’ve seen a more than 10% gain in productivity and measurable uptick in new business, according to a new analysis.  

Advanced Radiology Services knew it needed to understand the “current big-data revolution” in order to get ahead of the competition. The private practice employs some 100 radiologists across a wide geographic area, who were often making decisions based on “spreadsheets with limited or dated data.”

Board member and radiologist Andrew Moriarity, MD, recently detailed this mind shift in a new how-to piece, published Jan. 17 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology. He believes all imaging providers must begin moving toward predictive analytics in today’s radiology marketplace, rather than just continuing to deliver reactionary medicine.

“Understanding the current big data revolution, data analytics movement, and data resource management is essential for informed decision making in all of healthcare, and can transform the way radiologists address complex problems and manage practices,” Moriarity and colleagues wrote.

To get started, the Grand Rapids, Michigan, provider hired a director of decision support, tasked with “making this vision a reality.” Leaders then built up an analytics and data management staff, choosing to tackle the process in-house to address their unique needs and develop a competitive advantage.

ARS used an “agile” development process to quickly launch a rough version of its data warehouse in under six months, rather than the typical 2-3 years. Leaders used two-week “sprint cycles” to continuously add features on an ongoing basis.   

The practice now has its own data warehouse, consisting of tables and data elements devised from several sources—including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, its own PACS, billing data and other internal applications. Each data element is separated into four categories (patient information, physician data, reads and studies, and billing/transactions), and presented in a uniform format for easy analysis.

Moriarity said the warehouse has allowed practice leaders to continuously monitor all aspects of radiologists’ work, setting productivity targets based on historical data. That move has paid off by increasing overall productivity at ARS by 10.4% during the first two years, and supporting organic growth at its sites. They’ve also automated tracking of CMS quality measures, providing automatic feedback to radiologists via email on their progress, and leading to the business scoring “top performer” status from the feds.

Leadership support has proven essential to the effort, along with Advanced Radiology Services’ desire to continuously evolve its data strategy, Moriarity noted.

“Becoming a data-driven practice has changed expectations for decision making and daily operational efficiencies and provided many benefits to our radiologists and staff members. However, the project is never finished,” the piece concluded.