In today’s competitive healthcare environment, hospitals and outpatient facilities are driven to provide the best care possible while being measured on their ability to improve outcomes, efficiency, and ultimately, patient satisfaction. In many cases, reimbursement levels are based on these measurements.
Radiology can play an important role in helping to meet those objectives; imaging is valuable in both diagnosing and treating patients, and it has the potential to have an outsized impact on patient outcomes and patient satisfaction
Phoenix Children’s Hospital is one of the largest pediatric healthcare systems in the country, dedicated to bringing world-class imaging services to Arizona's children. Dianna Bardo, MD, is a Pediatric Radiologist, Co-Director of the 3D Innovation Lab, and Vice Chair of Radiology for program development at Phoenix Children’s. For Dr. Bardo and her staff, achieving better health outcomes spans the entire disease process of their pediatric patients, particularly those with cancer, chronic diseases such as congenital heart disease, and neurological issues such as epilepsy.
“Better health outcomes in Radiology means that we're more efficient in making a diagnosis,” she says. “If we can deliver efficient care that requires fewer procedures and is less expensive, that's what’s important to us and our department.
She says a major challenge is streamlining communication among the parent, patient, and healthcare providers. Phoenix Children’s radiologists review images with patients and referring physicians throughout the diagnosis and treatment stages, putting them in a unique position to support efficient, high-quality .
“I think that’s going to lead us to a place where the radiologist becomes more and more important in the healthcare cycle of a patient,” says Dr. Bardo. She adds that current limitations imposed by healthcare and governmental authorities on person-to-person contact aren’t keeping her team from carrying out their mission.
“In this era of COVID-19, while we are observing ‘social distancing’ guidelines, we are having online video conferences in order to continue our commitment to direct patient communication,” says Dr. Bardo.
As part of a long-term strategic partnership that began in 2017, Philips and Phoenix Children’s continue to collaborate on new research opportunities and innovations intended to make healthcare delivery more seamless and to address the specific needs of children. In the MR suite, this partnership includes a comprehensive portfolio of imaging technologies, including two 3.0T MR systems, with plans this year to add a third, along with a 1.5T system.
The hospital is also developing new imaging sequences for Compressed SENSE, a breakthrough acceleration technique that shortens single MRI sequences and full MRI examinations.
“Combining these technologies and sequences might help us manage the way we're acquiring images so that we can image faster. If we can get good temporal resolution, spatial resolution, and tissue contrast with a faster sequence, then we're going to be doing things better for our patients,” says Dr. Bardo.
One of the biggest challenges in pediatric radiology is calming an anxious child – and their equally nervous parents so that high-quality images can be acquired and the need to repeat scans can be reduced. Faster scans result in faster image acquisition, which in turn translates to getting an anxious child back to the worried parents more quickly, thus having a positive effect on patient satisfaction. For patients who need serial imaging, such as children with tumors, this positive effect carries over to each visit.
The hospital has also installed ambient solutions, including relaxing videos, calming music, and soothing lighting, in the quiet rooms where patients rest during the FDG uptake process for PET exams.
“If we can help calm a patient, their parents will stay calm,” Dr. Bardo says. “If we can make that imaging experience faster and still get the same, or even better, information about their anatomy and the disease process, everybody's happy.”
Increasing throughput and efficiency while delivering safe, high-quality care is a goal of every healthcare institution. Technologies that help reduce anxiety also positively affect the bottom line. “It helps reduce medical costs because perhaps we’re not using the expertise of an anesthesiologist and sedation medications. If I can make that a shorter experience by implementing sequence changes or faster imaging, that is beneficial,” Dr. Bardo says.
Dr. Bardo says her institution’s partnership with Philips offers the Phoenix Children’s long-term opportunities for innovation and better outcomes. “Because of this relationship, we're able to be at the cutting edge of things,” she says. “Because Philips is a leader in the development of software and hardware and imaging technology, we feel like we're able to better care for our patients. “And if we feel that we're better able to care for our patients,” she concludes, “then the entire focus of that child's care is better.”
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Editor’s note: Kieran Anderson, publisher of Applied Radiology, spoke with Dianna Bardo, MD, a pediatric radiologist and Vice-Chair of Radiology at Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona, about the imaging technologies the hospital is using that improve patient outcomes. This is a brief account of that discussion.
Using Innovative Imaging Technology to Improve Patient Outcomes. Appl Radiol.
McKenna Bryant is a freelance healthcare writer based in Nashotah, WI.