Hospital reduces radiology reporting disruptions, CT wait times with simple practice tweak

One radiology department is finding success reducing both interruptions during reporting and patient wait times with a few minor practice tweaks, according to a study published Monday.

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital particularly experienced starts and stops during the vetting of plain computed tomography head scans and CT of the urinary tract. But by taking these tasks off radiologists’ plates, the 430-bed London teaching hospital saw incoming calls drop 30% for head scans while wait times fell 40%.

“Reducing disruptions during radiology reporting has the potential to improve radiologists’ ability to manage workload, job satisfaction, stress levels, efficiency, reporting accuracy and therefore patient safety,” lead author Christopher Watura, a musculoskeletal radiology fellow with the National Health Service at the time of the study, and colleagues wrote June 21 in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology. “Radiology has a pivotal role in most in-patient care pathways and so smoothing scanning bottle necks is expected to contribute to improved service effectiveness, including reduced patient length of stay.”

To reach their conclusions, Watura and colleagues conducted a prospective investigation, identifying head and urinary tract CTs as two of the most common reasons for phone calls. Radiology registrars recorded all incoming calls into a spreadsheet during one-week periods in September and January. Clear protocols exist for these two exams, the authors noted, which do not routinely require a radiologist to weigh in.

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital shifted to having radiographers directly accept these requests, both during regular business hours and afterward. (Previously referring providers needed to discuss the scan with both a radiologist and radiographer.) Tracking volumes after the change, Watura and colleagues found a 30% drop in calls to vet head CT and a 100% decrease for urinary tract scans. Overall calls reduced by 10%, while scan vetting check-ins dropped 34%, and the number of both types of scans remained stable after the change.

The hospital next plans to expand the intervention to other tasks that rads are frequently phoned for but could be completed by other team members.

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