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Cutting the Cost: How teleradiology can save trusts time, money and resource

4 Ways Healthcare : 11 May, 2010  (Special Report)
Sanjiv Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer of teleradiology specialist, 4 Ways Healthcare, explains how teleradiology can help Trusts avoid penalties by reducing the costs of radiology whilst improving working practices and patient care.
With increasing pressure on radiology departments and a shortage of radiologists, just handling and reporting on the everyday flow of scans can seem an insurmountable task, and as we have seen in recent years, reporting backlogs can build with frightening rapidity, putting patients at risk and exposing the hospital Trust to the risk of penalties.

Radiologists are constantly multitasking, splitting their time between duties including; Ultrasound scanning, interventional procedures, reporting multidisciplinary meetings and On Call. Clerical staff are stretched with making / changing appointments, report sending, referral scanning along with all the duties involved in a modern Radiology department. So often the Radiographers work extended hours to provide a superb service to fulfill the throughput of patients required for NHS service levels only to create backlogs in reporting.

Given this the idea of calling in additional expertise to help manage the workload makes sense. However with the annual cost to a Trust to employ a radiologist upwards of 100,000, this can be a squeeze on finances.

Teleradiology offers Trusts a solution which not only tackles the issue of resource, but also the issue of cost - an apparent win-win solution. But how exactly does calling in extra radiology expertise achieve this? And how do you ensure that the teleradiology service you choose will deliver on the promise? Let us take a look at the key benefits teleradiology offers.

Cutting costs
Teleradiology provides a value for money offering which delivers cost savings to the Trust. Our analyses show that compared to employing full time radiologists, annually the cost of teleradiology to a Trust is 25 percent less and up to 50 percent less than providing locum cover.

Furthermore teleradiology service costs are predictable. There are no additional connectivity or IT costs, and being pay-as-you-go, you have the flexibility to use the service for as long or as little as you require it, meaning there are no long-term fixed overheads.

Teleradiology also resolves the issue of staff shortages. With holidays and sickness, the average annual availability of a radiologist is 40 weeks, meaning there will often be times when reporting backlogs could build up. This can put patients at risk and expose the hospital Trust to the risk of penalties.

Being a turnkey service teleradiology can be adopted instantly, saving time and resource compared to the procurement of new staff, giving hospitals an effective quick fix solution for covering absenteeism. With access to a team dedicated to you, using teleradiology is not outsourcing, but resourcing.

Workload management using experienced clinicians
Teleradiology gives you the flexibility to use the service as and when you require it. During busy periods where there is an unexpected influx of workload expert teleradiology can provide additional interpreting capacity to manage any extra work to help hospitals clear backlogs and keep up-to-date, and it can do this to the highest clinical standard, using experienced NHS consultants.

This helps ensure hospitals bridge any reporting gaps to maintain high levels of patient care and avoid unnecessary penalties.

SLA bound turnaround
Teleradiology ensures scans are handled and reported on in the timeframe you require. Set SLA response times for problem resolution and image quality issues will ensure expectations and requirements of the service are clear- for both you and your service provider, giving you peace of mind that your provider’s promise will meet performance, ensuring business continuity.

Quality assurance
Any good teleradiology provider will demonstrate robust and tested clinical governance with real clinical audit data, giving assurance that the service you are receiving is of the highest quality. By sharing their knowledge, auditors can offer real benefits to reporting radiologists, promoting learning whilst giving them the opportunity to objectively demonstrate the quality of their work.

Now you know what to expect from teleradiology, what should you expect of your provider?

Your teleradiology provider should use UK-based NHS consultant radiologists with sub specialist interests, delivering a reporting service using a core team that is specific to your needs.

Your provider should also have a robust in-house system and be able to interface securely with existing NHS IT systems and processes, meaning you avoid the need to deploy new equipment.

And finally, your provider should be able to deliver reports in the format you require, with a fast turnaround - day or night.

In essence teleradiology providers should be at the centre of your radiology operation, playing an active role - not only in terms of interpretative services, but also with regard to clerical support, becoming an active part of your healthcare team.
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