June 1, 2007

elevate: Answering the Tough Questions

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Medical Center leadership answers the tough questions about what the elevate program is and what it means for the people who work at VUMC.

Question: Why do we continue to add the ability to see more patients without also expanding support services such as lab and radiology?

Answer: For the two vital hospital services that you've mentioned here, the growth of recent years has generally not been a matter of expanded space and more staff, but rather a matter of technological change and greatly improved productivity. To accommodate increasing patient volumes, these groups have developed new ways of working.

Radiology will conduct an estimated 495,253 exams on campus this year, a 65 percent increase over 2002. Meanwhile, in the past five years, average turnaround for exam results has been reduced 32 percent, from 25 hours to 17 hours, and the average time to the next available appointment has been reduced 60 percent, from five days to two days.

The improvements were achieved through a combination of new equipment purchases and increased staff in some areas, a momentous wholesale switch from film to digital images, and greatly increased hours of operation (24/7 for most modalities).

Turnaround is continually being shortened in the lab, where the staff has increased only marginally in the past five years, while the workload has more than doubled. The story here is one of increased automation. The lab's new chemistry robotic line will provide yet greater efficiency.

The standards under which our vital hospital services operate are set by committees of experts from across our institution. We continue to monitor turnaround times as well as quality, and as we look to accommodate even greater patient volumes, I'm confident that VUMC can continue to build on its considerable record of innovation and increased efficiency.

— Martin Sandler, M.B., Ch.B., associate vice chancellor for Hospital Affairs