News | April 07, 2010

PACS-aholic: Beware of Ninjas

Ms. PACS: It seems like everyone wants to be a black belt these days. Just go to Ballys Total Fitness, all you need to have is a bank account and a pulse to move up in the ranks.

And while the "fitness" business has sadly denigrated the art and the term black belt, business management has upgraded it to guru status – as a rank for experts in Lean Six Sigma management methodology.

I get it, it’s sounds more Ninja than just a boring old MBA. And now it is being adopted in PACS. Yes, radiologists can qualify for Ninja status too.

One of the big adopters of Six Sigma is applying its industrial methodology to radiology workflow. The company is spearheading a study to improve radiology productivity by finding where they can enhance PACS. I know about this because I included it an article in ITN’s April issue: Best Practices in Radiology Workflow.

The goal of the project is “to understand the exact work efforts of a radiologist and make changes to products/solutions to take the wasted effort away through better software and/or configuration.” The company enlisted its team of Lean Six Sigma Black Belts (LSSBB) to watch radiologist, actually timing them with a stop watch, to analyze the workflow process. The plan is to then apply industrial engineering techniques combined with Lean Six Sigma methodology to the radiology workflow. Finally, the Black Belts’ is to find opportunities to reduce wait time, excessive mouse clicks, redundant actions, and repetitious movements. The idea is to help radiologists make a leap to increased efficiency – Hiyaa!

I like the theory, but would karate chop my boss if he stood over me with a stop watch.

But there is a colony of Power Rangers out there in the making. The other day, this guy who runs a marketing company called Power…something asked on a certain networking site:“How can the Radiology industry use Lean Six Sigma? I am looking to market my LSSBB to a greater extent. Any suggestions?” One suggestion was: “The January 2010 issue Vol. 65, Issue 1 of the ACR bulletin may be a good place to start.”

I Googled and i found:“Get your black belt in ACR MRI accreditation.” So the ACR has Ninjas too. In fact, a number of different organizations in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. are applying Lean/Six Sigma concepts to help improve efficiency, utilization, productivity, cost containment, etc. Between decreasing reimbursement rates, increasing imaging volumes, shortage of radiologists, etc. there is certainly growing interest in finding new ways to streamline and improve the delivery of imaging.

According to another Radrounds participant: "While there is a lot of info on the web about Radiology process improvement, key performance indicators (KPIs), etc – there seems to be a technical gap in terms of how people are able to analyze results/performance." He said he is working on a new solution to take data from any source, combine it into useful perspectives, and help organizations to improve workflow, reduce costs, increase utilization, patient volumes, etc.

Those are some useful tips, but is it just more pseudo black belt speak?

One thing is for sure: everyone thinks it’s cool to be a “black belt.” And, every field has one - whether it's radiology, the music industry, or its the originator of Lean Management itself – Toyota – but look how that turned out. The term “black belt” is a business buzzword. What the heck, Ballys Total Fitness runs a “black belt” mill.

For those who actually want to know, the real black belt is only the very beginning stage of becoming a master in either karate or tae kwon do or judo. It takes many, many years to move up the ranks and to understand it. That leaves just a few real Ninjas in the world - those who understand the real meaning of the belt (that does not include Yoda). So shhh... keep the secret. Kamsamida.

I wonder how long it will take to get a black belt in PACS? Anyone know?

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