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Paperless Protocoling of CT and MRI Requests at an Outpatient Imaging Center

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We created our imaging center (IC) to move outpatient imaging from our busy inpatient imaging suite off-site to a location that is more inviting to ambulatory patients. Nevertheless, patients scanned at our IC still represent the depth and breadth of illness complexity seen with our tertiary care population. Thus, we protocol exams on an individualized basis to ensure that the referring clinician’s question is fully answered by the exam performed. Previously, paper based protocoling was a laborious process for all those involved where the IC business office would fax the requests to various reading rooms for protocoling by the subspecialist radiologists who are 3 miles away at the main hospital. Once protocoled, reading room coordinators would fax back the protocoled request to the IC technical area in preparation for the next day’s scheduled exams. At any breakdown in this process (e.g., lost paperwork), patient exams were delayed and clinicians and patients became upset. To improve this process, we developed a paper free process whereby protocoling is accomplished through scanning of exam requests into our PACS. Using the common worklist functionality found in most PACS, we created “protocoling worklists” that contain these scanned documents. Radiologists protocol these studies in the PACS worklist (with the added benefit of having all imaging and report data available), and subsequently, the technologists can see and act on the protocols they find in PACS. This process has significantly decreased interruptions in our busy reading rooms and decreased rework of IC staff.

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Correspondence to Matthew J. Bassignani.

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Bassignani, M.J., Dierolf, D.A., Roberts, D.L. et al. Paperless Protocoling of CT and MRI Requests at an Outpatient Imaging Center. J Digit Imaging 23, 203–210 (2010).

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Key words

  • Radiology workflow
  • workflow re-engineering
  • PACS