Sometimes, speed and professionalism aren’t enough to overcome a technological disadvantage. When the multi-site orthopedic practice OrthoTexas Physicians and Surgeons found its patient experience bogged down in an outdated technological solution, a well-supported new equipment purchase was the answer.
In the last four years, OrthoTexas has purchased four Konica Minolta U-arms and one straight arm, streamlining operations at its seven-site orthopedic and sports medicine practices across a distributed patient network. The linchpin of its seventh office, which opened in December 2016, is the floor-mounted Konica Minolta digital radiography (DR) U-arm. X-ray technician Cortney McAda said the device provides faster exams, smoother positioning, and facilitates advanced imaging studies in a digital environment. With a console-mounted screen, the U-arm allows technologists to view results at the tube stand, helping improve the time spent on exams, keeping patients more comfortable, and improving throughput at the institution.
“It’s completely interactive,” McAda said. “You don’t have to be in the control booth. You can control and do everything right there while you’re with the patient. If you need to change pace or change the exam, you’re right there.”
Prior to the installation of the U-arm, McAda had been working on a computed radiography (CR) GE fluoroscopy unit that dated back to 1987. She recalled it as the same unit on which she’d trained while earning her certificate, and for all the years in between, the system was starting to show its age in the high-volume orthopedic clinic. To capture three X-rays per patient study, McAda would have to follow a process that was time-consuming and awkward, all while negotiating its single-plate, cartridge-based system.
“I would shoot the first X-ray, and while that one X-ray was processing, I would be able to shoot three more,” she said. “I would already have three more able to be processed; that’s how quick I was with shooting, but the software really held me back.”
Since installing the Konica Minolta system, McAda said patient wait times have improved, the overall length of appointments has fallen, and the overall patient experience is better. As OrthoTexas generally has at least two doctors requesting studies continually throughout the day, her ability to improve throughput has “improved the whole clinic and the whole patient experience,” McAda said.
“[The GE unit] was a pretty outdated system,” she said. “Now that I’ve got this, it’s a lot faster; it’s a lot easier. The patient seems to be more impressed. I get a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ out of them over how quickly we can move and how fast the machine is. I still see usually about 50 patients a day.”
Sourcing the Konica Minolta U-arm was made easier thanks to a preexisting relationship OrthoTexas had with its equipment supplier at the El Paso, Texas-based Southwest X-Ray.
“There’s a trust there,” said Tracy Jackson, Vice-President of Operations at OrthoTexas. “We called and said, ‘Here’s what we need.’ They reviewed the site and the building, and went back with what the physicians wanted. It was a process to select the right one.”
Jackson said his representatives at Southwest X-ray helped the staff at OrthoTexas negotiate the installation of the U-arm. Its setup there was one of the first in the country, and despite a few adjustments, Jackson said the arrangement has been “very successful with a brand-new product that is cutting-edge technology.”
“We had a whole software applications team with us the first few weeks,” McAda said. “They completely coded it from the ground up to do everything that it does. Any time I have an issue, they are able to remote login to my computer, get everything fixed up, and get right on track. Konica Minolta will drop what they’re doing and focus on us, which is great to have that customer service.”
Personal attention and service from Southwest X-ray is what Jackson said gave staff the confidence of a trusted vendor to go along with the new equipment. As important as finding an affordable piece of equipment is, attention to the needs of the institution after the sale is just as much a part of what sustains a trusted partnership, he said.
“I’m relying on my vendor [to select the right equipment], and then once the deal’s done, servicing that deal, implementing, installing when I need to have it installed,” Jackson said.
Even when the move-in date to the new OrthoTexas building changed three different times because the building wasn’t yet ready, the technicians at Southwest X-ray were unfazed, he said.
“If I didn’t have a good partner who was flexible in service stuff, it wouldn’t have worked well,” Jackson said. “But they flexed. I’m sure it was a big hassle on their side, but I never heard it. We were in and shooting on Monday, our first day.”
That attention to detail and ability to adjust on the fly allowed the staff at OrthoTexas to focus on ways in which the Konica Minolta U-arm could improve patient experiences instead of whether the bleeding-edge technology was operational, Jackson said. The diversity of technological services the practice has consolidated through its relationship with Southwest X-Ray, even across locations, has further smoothed the flow of its operations, Jackson said.
“If we have a problem, it gets solved very quickly,” he said. “Everything’s integrated, and I don’t have to worry about calling three different vendors even though I have seven locations. [Southwest X-Ray] knows us; they know what equipment we’re using. I don’t have to be involved; my staff can call and get the answers they need.”
With a responsive technological partner in his corner, Jackson said his staff are able to concentrate on what they do best.
“We’re a service business,” Jackson said. “Patients have a choice, and my staff is all about how to improve that service experience.”