The Need for Imaging Speed in Urgent Care
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The role of quick imaging in building your urgent care practice.
Urgent care practice managers have many priorities, including building the practice. One way to approach this challenge is to consider the factors that lead patients to choose urgent healthcare centers over other options available to them for their medical care. The answer? Quality medical care in less time and for less cost. These simple yet powerful outcomes drive an increasing number of patients to seek healthcare at urgent care facilities every day. Overall, the urgent care industry has demonstrated consistent growth of about 9%, according to a Benchmarking Report by the Urgent Care Association (UCA). (1)
A big part of the appeal for patients to visit urgent care centers is the capability to receive medical care without enduring an excruciatingly long wait time in an ER. No one likes waiting for an appointment – especially when they’re in pain or not feeling well.
The COVID-19 pandemic added another driver for getting in and out of a medical facility as quickly as possible – avoiding contagion. Many industry watchers believe that the increased awareness of infectious disease along with the desire to limit time in facilities with other sick patients will remain well after we’ve all put away our face masks and PPE.
The combination of newcomers who visited urgent care centers for the first time during the pandemic – and the lasting desire to minimize time in healthcare facilities – possibly opens the door to increased revenue for your urgent care practice. But how can you differentiate your facility to turn this potential into growth and ongoing success?
The role of DR imaging in building the urgent care practice
The data suggests that overall, patients are turning to urgent care clinics for radiology, notably X-ray exams, as an alternative to expensive ED visits and inconvenient primary care appointments. According to the UCA’s report, digital radiography (DR) is the most utilized imaging service in the responding urgent care centers, at nearly 71%. From this, we can clearly conclude that imaging offers a great deal of revenue potential.
So if you’re imaging with film, you might be at a disadvantage. Film processing involves time-consuming steps. A lot of time is wasted – which slows patient throughput and reduces satisfaction. Film also has drawbacks for your behind-the-scenes operations. It requires the ongoing purchase and storage of the film itself…as well as chemicals…and it carries the expense of maintaining a darkroom.
CR is an improvement, but still requires the extra step of transporting the cassette to a scanner and digitizing the exposure. Again, it’s slower throughput compared to the speedy digital processing offered by your competitors.
In addition to the internal operational challenges posed by film and CR, there are external influences as well. The U.S. Governmental Appropriations Act of 2016 seeks is driving the adoption of full-digital X-ray by reducing Medicare reimbursement for film and CR exams.
DR solves the workflow drawbacks of CR and film-based imaging, helping to improve productivity and reduce patient exam times. The image is fully digital upon capture and appears on the desktop in seconds. No film processing, no harsh chemicals to handle, no cassette scanning, no delays – and less patient wait time.
Over time the dramatic speed, workflow and productivity benefits of a DR room deliver superb ROI – as well as enhanced image quality and patient care – making a DR room a sound financial decision. Yes, the upfront costs of DR are higher, but the savings over time paint an attractive ROI picture. And there are affordable retrofit solutions that don’t require a large capital outlay. For example, our Focus 35C/43C Detectors use a single wireless detector to quickly and affordably convert your existing imaging equipment into a full digital operation. The transition is fast and seamless. You can start imaging significantly more patients soon with your improved workflow capabilities.
Accelerating patient throughput with DR image capture
You know that the appeal of shorter visits leads patients to select urgent care centers over a busy emergency room. But how do your wait times stack up against those of your competitors in urgent care? Seventy-five percent of centers’ door-to-provider time is under 20 minutes, according to the Urgent Care Association’s benchmarking report. And approximately 97% of patient encounters are one hour or less. Of course, there are many ways to increase speed and throughput: hire more staff, train current staff to be more efficient, streamline your admitting processes, and the list goes on. We already discussed how replacing film- or CR-based X-ray systems can dramatically improve workflow, and help you increase patient throughput. Are there more opportunities for efficiency gains in your choice of X-ray rooms?
We know that radiologic technologists repeat the same functions many times a day as they capture images. Automating some of these repetitive tasks and making it easier to access others can offer big boosts in productivity. Here are just a few of the many features available that can shave minutes off each patient experience and help increase patient satisfaction – and possibly help you build your urgent care practice.
Our CARESTREAM DRX-Compass X-ray System offers these essential features for maximized throughput and excellent image quality – so your staff can get an accurate image in one exposure.
- Tube tracking that automatically follows the detector while in the Bucky, so a rad tech only needs to do fine positioning.
• Auto-Centering to optimize ease of use and speed workflow.
• Motorization for easier long-length imaging exams.
• Motor Assist functions to make manual movement easier.
• A five-axis motion-control option, where one console controls all the imaging functions.
• Wireless remote control to expedite the imaging process.
Boost exam productivity further with Artificial Intelligence
Knowledgeable radiologic technologists understand that correct positioning and accurate settings of X-ray equipment are essential to capturing an image that will meet diagnostic requirements. However, executing these steps require precision and time, and even the most skilled rad techs can sometimes fail to obtain clinically viable results. (2)
Our new AI-based Smart DR Workflow helps radiologic technologists acquire images in a consistent manner from patient to patient, enabling more consistent presentation and image quality, and reducing retakes. It makes DR systems more “intelligent and aware” of the environment and patient by integrating sensors, cameras and AI software.
Carestream’s software powered by Eclipse uses AI to optimize exam workflow while improving diagnostic image quality and consistency. Our optional AI-based Smart DR Workflow has 3 important components: Smart Positioning, Smart Technique, and Smart Collimation. Read the blog on Smart DR Workflow to learn more.
Important takeaways for building your urgent care practice.
First, DR is the modality of today. If you’re still using film or CR, the sooner you get on board with DR, the sooner you’ll reap the benefits of faster throughput, increased revenue and happier patients.
Second, faster exam throughput adds revenue to the bottom line. Automated features available on function-rich DR systems help rad techs perform exams in less time and with less movement. This can increase satisfaction for both the patient and the rad tech, and quicker throughput enhances the overall patient experience.
Third, the lasting awareness of infectious diseases will lead more patients to seek alternatives to ERs and primary care offices. This presents an opportunity for urgent care clinics to continue evolving their services to serve a growing clientele. Are you prepared to capture your share of patients – and profitability?
1 2019 Benchmarking Report; Urgent Care Association. UCAOA.org Copyright 2020. UCA granted permission for the use of their content.
2 Sajjad Rastegar, Jalal Beigi, Ehsan Saeidi, Reject analysis in digital radiography: A local study on radiographers and students’ attitude in Iran, Med J Islam Repub Iranv.33; 2019PMC6708103