The use of business administration models could improve radiology processes in hospitals. This was the finding of a study carried out by Jasper van Sambeek, who would be defending his PhD thesis at the University of Twente on 4 May.

Van Sambeek showed, for example, that scrapping appointments in favour of walk-in systems enabled departments to deal with patients requiring CT scans more quickly. At the same time, capacity utilization rates remained the same or even increased.

According to Van Sambeek, there was no organization more complex than a hospital. In many ways, they are completely unlike 'normal companies'. Nevertheless, business administration models if used properly have great potential regarding improving patient logistics.

The PhD research focused on methods for optimizing the processes involved while, at the same time, improving the service to patients. It focused on radiology departments because increasing numbers of patients were using these facilities and because the waiting times involved are often less than ideal.

Reducing variation

The general conclusion to be drawn from Van Sambeek's research was that many healthcare processes could be improved by reducing variation. One example of this is a case that Van Sambeek worked on at the Academic Medical Center (AMC) in Amsterdam.

No appointments

Another way of shortening access times is to enable patients to visit the radiology department without first having to make an appointment. In practice, hospitals usually opt for an appointment system, on the assumption that this is a better way of spreading out the influx of patients.

The disadvantage, however, is that it involves more trips to the hospital for patients, and it takes longer to reach a diagnosis. In practice, patients usually have to wait one or more weeks before they can be scanned.

Van Sambeek points out that "This period can often be reduced to zero." One of the findings of a case study at Rijnstate Hospital was that if patients could have CT scans without first making an appointment, they might have to wait a few minutes longer in the waiting room, but tend to be more satisfied.

The reason was that they do not have to make so many trips to the hospital and the scan was carried out much earlier. As a result, the patients get their results much sooner.

The study has shown that the system does not involve any compromises regarding efficiency. Indeed, the facilities' capacity utilization rates appear to be even higher than before.

The staff, too, are more satisfied with this system. While things might be very hectic at peak times, they nevertheless feel that it enables them to provide patients with a better service.