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Building an infrastructure to improve imaging patient access at Southern Illinois Healthcare

A decentralized imaging scheduling model frustrated physicians and patients, stunting volume growth

In 2013, each of Southern Illinois Healthcare’s three facilities had unique imaging leadership teams, priorities, and operations. This created particular challenges for imaging scheduling, which required physician offices and patients to treat each SIH facility as separate units to find or reschedule appointments.

The decentralized scheduling model led to high variability in call wait times and service standards. At times patients would wait weeks for appointments while immediate access was available at another SIH site. Without a cohesive access point, SIH lost imaging patients—and then downstream care—to competitors even in different markets despite higher out-of-pocket costs and longer commute times.

A newly hired System Imaging Director utilized Advisory Board research to develop a resolution: centralize scheduling. The leader assembled a new scheduling team, set clear performance expectations, and launched system-wide scheduling operations.

In the five years following implementation, SIH maximized capacity utilization of existing equipment. SIH invested in new advanced imaging services, allowing the organization to provide high quality, local care for more patients. Their focus on convenient access has allowed SIH to grow market share and improve satisfaction of patients, physicians, and staff.

Get an excerpt of the research used by Southern Illinois Healthcare

Access to proven solutions and strategies

Southern Illinois Healthcare attempted to centralize scheduling prior to 2013, without meaningful progress. A newly hired System Director shouldered the project during his first month on the job. He turned to an Advisory Board research study to find centralized scheduling best practices that would work for SIH and began implementation.

Benchmark data to set scheduling goals and manage performance

SIH conducted minimal performance measurement at its locations prior to centralizing scheduling, so it was hard to know what their new team could be expected to achieve. Leaders reviewed Advisory Board benchmarks with over 20 imaging access metrics and associated goals, selected the most relevant metrics to monitor, set performance expectations, and committed to continuously addressing areas of underperformance. This allowed SIH to identify a challenge with their no show rate around 20%. By optimizing staffing and implementing new processes, the team now maintains a no show rate around 5%.

Visibility into market demand to support new investments

Within three years following implementation of centralized scheduling, the System Director recognized the need for new advanced imaging equipment to accommodate growing demand and to support specialist recruitment. He utilized the Advisory Board Outpatient Market Estimators to access unbiased, exam-specific outpatient volume estimates and growth projections for their zip codes. With clear growth opportunity, he developed business cases for investment in new MRI machines and additional interventional radiology services at both new and existing locations. These additions to the SIH fleet have further improved patient convenience and access, and have helped keep rural patients in the community.

Southern Illinois Healthcare had 69% growth in outpatient MRI volume between 2013 and 2018. Average outpatient MRI growth for all providers during this same period was 8%. Volume of all modalities at SIH grew during this period, but MRI was the primary focus of no show work and grew most quickly. 2018 volume is projected based on actual Q1 data.

Watch their story

Our goal at a high level was to improve access across the system and grow volume. By getting scheduling processes right, we are getting patients in the door and are keeping both physician practices and patients happy. Patients are staying in network and coming back for more services.

Jon Lough, MBA

System Director of Imaging Services, Southern Illinois Healthcare

Learn the new standard for imaging access

Imaging often serves as the health system’s front door, meaning that seamless access is critical to securing market share for far more than just diagnostic tests.

Download this excerpt to get our recommendations for diagnosing imaging access vulnerabilities by benchmarking performance, and advancing scheduling by addressing scheduler challenges and tailoring the scheduling model to meet consumer demands.

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