As the imaging industry begins working towards re-opening services reduced or shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic, thought leaders, professional societies, and department leaders alike have offered plans and guidance on how to return to normal operations. The goal is to get through the backlog of requests that have accumulated while elective and non-urgent care was paused. A great deal of work has been published stressing these basic steps:
- Offer a streamlined and efficient scheduling, registration, and intake process for patients
- Ensure scheduling templates allow for enough time between appointments for cleaning, turnover, etc.
- Communicate with patients about what to expect during their visit
- Review outstanding imaging requests to ensure orders no longer needed are removed from the queue
- Collaborate closely with ordering providers to ensure that the remaining requests are triaged by urgency/clinical necessity, the correct test is performed to answer the clinical question being asked, duplicate requests are eliminated, and appropriate imaging guidelines are followed.
The more I look at this list, though, the more it bothers me. In a perfect world, wouldn’t each of these things already be part of normal operations? Sure, there would still be a backlog created by pausing services, but outside of the sheer number of requests to get through, are you happy with how the rest of these points were pre-COVID? Before rushing back to “normal”, ask yourself:
- Was the normal scheduling, registration and intake process streamlined and efficient, creating a great first impression for your patients?
- Were your schedule templates realistic for the work that occurs, allowing technologists the right amount of time for patient care, post processing, paperwork, cleaning, and room turnover?
- Did imaging patients know what to expect in your department when they came for their exam?
- Did collaboration between ordering providers, radiologists and the department ensure the right exam, with the right protocol, for the right clinical reasons, at the right time?
In times of challenge, we often find unexpected opportunity – opportunity to do better, to resolve issues, and to fix broken processes so we come out on the other side better than before, in a new and better version of “normal”.
As you are making or executing your recovery plans, ask yourself- is getting back to “normal” really what you want? Or is it time for a new and better “normal”?