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Scheduling system saves $1 million and improves care
Appointment schedulers at the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center provide scheduling services for all medical treatment facilities across the San Antonio Military Health System (SAMHS), Oct. 1, 2013. The modalities and services covered include computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound (US), and mammograms. A consolidated scheduling system for radiology services within SAMHS began in Dec. 2012 and has since saved the Air Force more than $1 million and improved patient's access to care. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)
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59 MDW scheduling system saves $1 million, improves care

Posted 10/3/2013   Updated 1/6/2014 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook
59th Medical Wing Public Affairs

10/3/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas  -- A new central scheduling system pioneered by the 59th Radiology Squadron has since been implemented by the entire San Antonio Military Health System- saving the Air Force more than $1 million, while also providing patients better access to care.

The system provides scheduling services for all medical treatment facilities across the SAMHS. The modalities and services covered include computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound (US), and mammograms.

"By consolidating scheduling services, the new system is more efficient by saving time and resources," said Lt. Col. William O'Brien, 59th RSQ commander.

Prior to the new system, one facility would have extended backlogs when there were unused or unfilled appointments at another facility.

"SAMHS facilities were in a position where patients were being sent downtown for imaging, despite having open appointments elsewhere in SAMHS. The schedulers had no visibility of this since they only had access to schedules within their own facility," said O'Brien.

The central scheduling system was agreed upon and developed by the radiology department chairs at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center and San Antonio Military Medical Center.

"The new system has advantages both for the health system, and more importantly, the patients," said O'Brien. "In terms of the health system, we have a greater and more efficient utilization of radiology services and resources across JBSA [Joint Base San Antonio]."

"For patients, the service is very convenient with just one number to call to schedule all of their radiology examinations. Patients also have the option to choose from any of the available appointments in JBSA based upon which options best suit their needs. This was not possible under the prior scheduling system," he added.

The WHASC and JBSA-Randolph tested the system in October 2012. Full implementation for all SAMHS facilities began in December 2012.

"In terms of access, the centralized system has had a significant impact on avoiding network referrals for imaging services. In the first month, central scheduling averted referral of over 600 MRI examinations to the downtown network by filling all available appointments throughout the health system and decreasing backlogs to within the TriCare standard. That equates to roughly $1 million in savings for MRI alone," said O'Brien.

In the first 10 months of implementation, there was no imaging referrals sent downtown due to lack of appointment availability in the health system.

"I think the biggest takeaway of the new scheduling system is the culture shift within SAMHS facilities," said Dale Avery, 59th RSQ scheduling supervisor. "Prior to its implementation, each facility and section provided their own scheduling services. Patients would have to call the individual modality at the facility they wished to have an examination performed."

"The central scheduling system is a perfect example of how the partnership between SAMHS facilities improves the health system," added Avery.

Conventional radiographic examinations are done on a walk-in basis at any treatment facility with radiology services. To schedule a radiology exam, call 210-925-XRAY (9729).

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