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July 21, 2015 - New combined radiology scheduling at USA Hospitals aims to improve the patient experience
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Imagine a University of South Alabama Health System patient who needs a mammogram and a bone scan. Mammography is offered only at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital and the bone scan only at USA Medical Center.

The patient, of course, doesn’t want to interrupt her busy schedule on two different days for separate tests — she expects a degree of convenience.

Now, imagine the clerk in the referring physician’s office. She doesn’t want to spend hours on the phone calling first one hospital’s radiology department and then the other, trying to make the two appointments coincide.

Aware of the less than ideal situation, Eduardo Rel and Tessie Johnson set out to revamp the radiology scheduling system. Rel is technical director of radiology at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital and Johnson fills the same role at USA Medical Center.

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Rel and Johnson put their heads together last year and developed a solution. They combined the scheduling staff for both radiology departments. So now the staffs are in a common space where they can talk to each other about schedules. They also have a common phone number.

The new collaborative scheduling project launched June 1.

Both USA Health System hospitals offer imaging services which include MRI, diagnostic, CT and ultrasound; USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital also offers mammography. USA Medical Center provides interventional radiology and nuclear medicine. Scheduling can be complex because the services are provided by dozens of technologists performing hundreds of studies a day.

Creating a central space for scheduling allows the two teams to coordinate, but also to learn from each other about the other facility’s services, Johnson said. Scheduling for interventional radiology is still handled separately, but only because the timing is very complex, she said.

While the collaboration is an obvious benefit to those calling from referring physician offices, it’s an even bigger benefit to patients, Johnson said.

Before the collaboration, the same people were greeting new patients, handling scheduling calls and handling all the other calls that came into the office. Now, frontline staff can concentrate on greeting new patients, while those who schedule appointments can work without interruption.

Add to that the improved coordination between the timing of various tests, and it’s clearly worth it, the managers said: “That’s better customer service for patients.”

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