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How Massachusetts General Increased Outpatient MRI Scan Time Slot Capacity by 50%

How Massachusetts General Increased Outpatient MRI Scan Time Slot Capacity by 50%

To develop the new center, researchers observed MRI workflows at other established outpatient imaging facilities. They pinpointed the most time-consuming processes and biggest bottlenecks, identifying preparation times, table turnover, and MRI scan duration.

The newly constructed facility included three scanners along with four patient prep rooms, separated by a nine-foot hallway. Patient prep remained the same, except that all steps were now performed in the room (instead of some occurring in the scanner room), including positioning, coil placement, and education. Each scanner also now has two associated dockable tables that alternate between uses, allowing staff to prep patients while another exam is in progress.

“Integrating these features into existing facilities may not be feasible unless space is available,” the authors noted. “However, these fundamental architectural and design elements should be considered when developing new imaging facilities to maximize volume throughput, reduce scanner downtime, and improve the patient experience.”

One wrinkle: The new facility requires slightly higher staffing ratios, with scanners staffed by two technologists and a third by a technical assistant. Each of the latter helps out as needed at all three MRI machines. By contrast, other facilities use two technicians per machine without the extra assistant.

After the intervention, prostate MRI exams saw the greatest decrease in scan times, from 46 minutes to 25 (-46%). In neuroradiology, contrast-enhanced brain MRI decreased from 31 minutes to 18 (-42%). And in musculoskeletal care, non-contrast shoulder MRI saw the greatest change, decreasing 35% from 26 minutes to 17.

At facilities using the old setup, 96% of all table turnover times were longer than 3 minutes. About 43% ranged between that duration and 9 minutes. Meanwhile, table turnover times at the new imaging center dropped “significantly,” averaging 6.2 minutes. The distribution was skewed toward shorter durations, with 35% at 3 minutes or less and 59% under 9 minutes, the authors reported. Mass General also began setting slots to 30 minutes, compared with 45 at traditional facilities. That represented a 33% reduction in slot times and a 50% increase in potential slot capacity.

“The improved workflow also resulted in a shorter check-in to scan time in the new facility (25 ± 16 min) compared to the reference facility (37 ± 22 min),” the authors noted. “Preliminary patient satisfaction scores show higher patient satisfaction at the new imaging facility with a net promoter score of 93.6 averaged over one year (n = 2,599) compared to 85.8 at the reference facility (n = 4,600).”

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