Five Steps to Better Digital Radiography Asset Utilization

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JED Armstrong, X-ray Solutions Specialist, Carestream

JED Armstrong, X-ray Solutions Specialist, Carestream

With growing concerns about decreasing reimbursement and lingering low confidence in access to capital for imaging and IT needs, how can radiology administrators identify waste and inefficiencies?

At last week’s AHRA Arizona meeting, we discovered ways to maximize return on investment.

In a CE credit session I had the opportunity to zero in on one department’s approach starting with the single most expensive component in a DR room – the detector.

Idle detectors provide no workflow benefits and slow return on investment.   How can you ensure you are maximizing this asset’s use? Here’s a five step process to test your DR strategy:

Step 1: Inventory Assets

Conduct a physical inventory of x-ray assets across the organization. How many systems from different vendors do you have? Where are the systems in their lifecyle? Which detectors are moveable? Are your detectors wireless or tethered? Create a spreadsheet that details each system, its age, software, maintenance contracts, available upgrades and if it’s in working order.

Step 2: Chart Asset Utilization

For each system capture the image volume, exam throughput and uptime requirements. Indicate if detectors are being shared between systems and if the detector is being used 24/7. Note degrees of required equipment redundancy. Document any staffing considerations for each asset. Is there a technician who only works with portables or specific vendor systems?AHRA graph

Step 3: Develop Growth Projections

Forecast market changes and the potential impact on your volumes. Could a planned closure of a nearby hospital within the year drive up imaging volumes in your ER or trauma center? Will a change in local population demographics drive surgical volumes?

Step 4: Identify Workflow Modifications

Analyze the three data sources collected in the previous steps. What changes to department workflow and/or purchases could lower redundancy, improve equipment utilization and unlock capacity for growth? For example:

  • Move an underutilized wireless DR detector from your DR room bucky to a portable for morning rounds. Then return the wireless detector for peak DR room volume. Finally redeploy the same detector to the ER for the night shift.
  • Use a common CR and DR software interface to ensure all techs can operate all systems and move easily from one piece of equipment to the next.
  • Purchase a second wireless detector for the radiology room second shift to make technicians working alone more efficient.

Step 5: Review Asset Replacement Strategies

Look for modular ways to continually advance your capabilities while still leveraging your legacy technology. Work with your vendor to determine if you need to replace a whole system or if upgrading a component like a detector could extend the life of your investment.

Let’s look at a scenario where changes in wireless DR detector utilization could have a significant impact on the ability to respond to volume growth:

Hospital A has an extremely busy ED / Trauma area. With capital constraints, the most they could afford in the last few budget years was CR technology. Funds this year are limited, but there is money available. An inventory of their x-ray assets finds that they have two full x-ray rooms, one “chest” room and three portable units – all over 10 years of age. The radiology director is projecting a continued an increase in volumes as a nearby hospital has recently closed and ED/Trauma volume is now significantly higher. The hospital determines the best use of funding is to convert one x-ray room and a portable system to DR at the same time. By retrofitting the portable and purchasing two detectors for the x-ray room, the second detector can be shared with the portable during off hours. In the future when parts are no longer available for the rooms, they will upgrade the equipment hardware and continue to use the detectors and software from their initial DR investment.

Your imaging vendor should partner with you to ensure you’re making the most of DR asset utilization and are not missing an opportunity to reduce the cost per image and accelerate the return on investment. Ask your partner to take you through this five step process to build justification models for your administration.

You can find the slides to my AHRA session below:


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