Productivity data before PACS implementation at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, CA, was compared to data after the facility had converted 100% to a fully digital PACS system. Patient volume increased from 102% for CT, 66% for MRI, 36% for ultrasound, 32% for special procedures and 23% for computed radiography from 1997 to 2002, said David Broumandi, MD. Meanwhile, staffing stayed the same at 6.7, Dr. Broumandi said. "The work-related relative value units (WRVU) per full-time equivalent radiologist was 6,602 (prior to PACS); that number increased by 39% to 9,195 in 2002 (after PACS implementation)," said Dr. Broumandi. A WVRU is a numerical value which describes a radiologist's workload and productivity based on the complexity of radiological studies he or she performs.
It is interesting to note that a survey of staff before the full implementation of PACS found that the physicians felt like the group was understaffed, "whereas at the end of 2002 the increase in examination volume was tolerable for all techniques using the current level of staffing," Dr. Broumandi said.
This study illustrates that the efficient use of PACS is an effective way to handle current and expected growth in patient volume without adding more radiologists to staff, Dr. Broumandi said.
Dr. Broumandi will present the study on May 4 at the American Roentgen Ray Society Annual Meeting in Miami Beach, FL.