Discover How to Optimize MRI Workflow for Radiology

Discover how to optimize MRI workflows to enhance patient experience, increase radiology operational efficiency and productivity.

Streamlined communication between radiologists, referring physicians and patients helps allay fears and build trust that leads to adherence to care plans and better outcomes.

GE HealthCare’s innovative UI features simplify exam setup, positioning and image acquisition. This reduces technologists’ workload and frees up time to focus on the next patient.

Automated Patient Scheduling

When it comes to workflow optimization, every radiology clinic has its own unique features based on size, area of specialization, and organizational structure. Nevertheless, there are some recurrent problem areas that can be found across facilities. A common issue is no-shows, which have the potential to cause significant revenue losses. While there are several ways to prevent this from occurring, one of the most effective is automated patient scheduling.

This software allows patients to book their own appointments online, saving time for radiology staff and making the process more convenient for the patient. A recent study revealed that it takes patients on average eight minutes to schedule an appointment over the phone, with much of this time spent waiting on hold or being transferred. With automated scheduling, however, this is reduced to just two minutes, which can greatly improve patient satisfaction.

MRI, including a BIOMED SCAN, is often used in the radiotherapy workflow to facilitate delineation of targets or organs at risk. The resulting CT with the delineated structures is then used for treatment planning and dose calculation. Since MRI provides superior soft-tissue contrast, it has a particular advantage in this context. However, the geometrical fidelity of standard MRI images is easily compromised, especially when motion occurs during the scan.

Therefore, to achieve a good result, it is important that the MRI sequences used in the radiotherapy workflow are optimized for their specific clinical application. A new method is now available for achieving this by automatically optimizing the MR sequence parameters directly on the MRI scanner. The method is based on evolutionary strategies and has been successfully tested for two clinical use cases. The MAGNETOM Sola system (Siemens Healthineers) was utilized for the optimization.

Automated Appointment Reminders

In radiology clinics, workflow optimization has become a vital way to ensure consistent quality of medical services and meet strict financial limitations. More exams, a growing number of patients and changing organizational environments are all putting increasing pressure on diagnostic services and staff.

The key to addressing these challenges is lean and optimized processes. This means creating efficient and transparent procedures that allow for better management, communication and marketing. But it’s not just administrative tasks that need to be streamlined — core medical processes are also crucial and must be critically evaluated in terms of their effectiveness, efficiency and compliance with clinical guidelines.

Automated appointment reminders are one of the most effective strategies for reducing no-show rates and improving patient engagement, as they ensure that your clients receive their appointment details at the right time. In addition to reducing no-shows, automated appointment reminders save you the hassle of having to call or email your customers daily or send them a schedule round-up each morning, thus freeing up your team’s resources for more meaningful and customer-oriented tasks.

In MRI-guided radiation therapy (MRgRT), accurate contouring of the target volume and organs at risk is essential for precise irradiation. MRgRT workflows require the use of image data from MRI, which has superior soft tissue contrast over CT and allows for more flexible delineation of the target volume. However, the geometrical fidelity of standard MR images can be compromised by breathing motion artifacts. To overcome these problems, navigator-triggered MRI sequences that acquire images during the maximum exhale phase of the breathing cycle are being used. But obtaining these images without compromising the geometry of the target volume requires optimizing the MR imaging sequence parameters on the MR scanner. This can be done using evolutionary optimization methods such as genetic algorithms and covariance matrix adaptation evolution strategy (CMA-ES).

Automated Status Updates

Using an automation system for status updates means staff spend less time sending emails and more time doing what they do best. In the end, that’s not only good for productivity, but also morale and engagement. By fixing small annoyances like status updates, radiology staff are free to spend more time on what matters.

Efficient communication is a key component of workflow optimization in any practice or department. This includes internal team communication as well as effective interaction with referring physicians and patients. In MRI, for example, anxious patients move around more during scans, which can cause image quality to suffer in 20% of cases. Taking an empathetic approach to patient care is therefore essential, as it has a direct impact on medical outcomes.

In addition to its role in diagnostic imaging, MRI is increasingly used for treatment guidance. MR-guided radiation therapy (MRgRT) allows for better delineation of tumors and organs at risk and is especially useful in prostate cancer and cervical cancer treatment.

To utilize MRI for gRT, an accurate registration between MRI and CT images is crucial. This is challenging, however, since deformation and movement of structures may occur between the two imaging modalities. Moreover, the different image signals of the MR scanner and MR-linac lead to differences in contrasts between tissue types.

We have developed an automated “on-the-run” optimization process to address these issues and improve MR sequences for gRT. The process is implemented on a local computer and uses the real-time scanner remote control tool Access-i from Siemens Healthineers. It allows us to optimize MR sequence parameters directly on the scanner without interfering with its operation. The optimization is based on the comparison of an MR image from the MR-linac with the target image and the maximization of a loss function defined by the difference between these two.

Patient Portal

Patient portals are a growing trend in health care, driven by the expectation of patients that they should be able to get information online at the same time they use the Internet to select a restaurant or purchase a new car. Patients want to be involved in their own health care and reward providers who provide a good patient portal experience.

In addition to appointment reminders, a patient portal provides access to billing information, consent forms, educational materials and test results, helping patients stay informed and improving engagement. Patients can also communicate with their physician via the portal, saving office staff the task of fielding non-urgent questions and allowing physicians to see more patients each day.

Although research into patient portal benefits is still in its infancy, high-quality studies indicate that they are associated with improved adherence to medications and increased patient-provider communication. However, low-quality studies have found that patient portals may be difficult to navigate and often lack the necessary tools for a positive user experience. Furthermore, portal-based communication can be disruptive to staff, especially when patients communicate with their physicians for the first time.

To overcome these challenges, it’s important for practices to invest in high-quality software that is designed to be easy to use and offers an optimal user experience. Additionally, they should designate a staff member to be a “super user” who knows how to use the patient portal and is the go-to person for fielding questions, requesting support from the vendor and providing tips or shortcuts to the rest of the team. This person should also create office policies about when/how to respond to portal queries and who should field which types of inquiries, such as general portal questions versus clinical ones.

Automated Reporting

A well-established automated reporting system not only saves time on manual tasks but also presents the information in a meaningful and easily digestible format. These reports can be generated based on certain criteria within the system or set timeframes and can then be automatically sent to anyone who needs it. This means your staff can focus on more important and engaging work.

MRI is widely used in radiotherapy for its superior soft-tissue contrast and ability to facilitate tumor and organ-at-risk delineation in conjunction with CT [1]. In MRgRT workflows it has become even more popular because of the possibility for online plan adaptation, target contouring and tracking, and brachytherapy dose delivery guidance.

However, there are a few challenges to the use of MRI in radiotherapy. For example, periodic motion (breathing) can cause imaging artifacts such as ghosting. These can be mitigated by using a navigator-triggered sequence that acquires images during the maximum exhale phase of the breathing cycle.

Additionally, the geometrical fidelity of standard MR images can be compromised. This doesn’t usually have an impact on the quality of diagnostic reading, but it can make them unsuitable for MRgRT contouring and other applications.

To overcome this, an MRI optimization tool such as Blue Link can be used to generate MR images with improved geometry, specifically tailored for use in a radiotherapy workflow. This allows for the use of diagnostic MRI scans for the purpose of MRgRT planning and enables the registration of these images to an on-table 3D MR-linac image. In addition, it enables on-table re-optimization of the RT treatment plan and a fast and easy QA test to ensure that clinical goals are met.