Making the most of on-site resources is a crucial part of providing quality healthcare while helping to keep costs to a minimum, but it is not always achievable. Outsourcing these services can help provide high-quality assistance while keeping costs down. Teleradiology experts TeleConsult Europe can do just that.

As a general rule, hospitals are keen to prioritise their radiology departments, and a well-funded department is crucial for the effective day-to-day running of a clinic. Take the US, for example, where medical imaging accounts for 7.5% of healthcare spending and $175 billion is spent annually, according to the American College of Radiology.

But this is costly, particularly when it comes to equipment and radiologists that may not be needed at all times. It’s this issue, particularly as public sector medical budgets are squeezed, that has led to the increasing popularity of outsourcing these services, allowing hospitals and labs to guarantee quality care while keeping costs down.

"If you’re a hospital and you have a radiologist on the payroll, he or she is never going to be used 100% of the time," says Erik de Grijs of TeleConsult Europe, which saw this gap in the market in 2007 and has been providing teleradiology services to hospitals across the world ever since.

"If your on-site radiologist is there for the necessary on-site work, you can use them almost 100%, but the other work you can have done remotely and basically pay per study."

Engendering efficiency

De Grijs founded TeleConsult Europe along with three radiologists in order to meet a demand in various European countries triggered by new technology in the teleradiology field. Some time later, they saw a need for scalable radiology capacity within departments, he says, where a radiologist’s on-site presence could be optimised in combination with off-site support via teleradiology. "It is this combination that allows TeleConsult to offer clients an optimal balance of radiology capacity, if you will," De Grijs says. "So they’re paying for optimal full-time-equivalent balancing, using the capacity of their radiologists to the maximum."

The process starts with an analysis of what the needs of the hospital or the clinic are, which TeleConsult then interprets and turns into a workflow management plan, optimising the use of personnel and identifying the best IT platform.

Helping clients to be more economical is central to what TeleConsult Europe does. Radiology departments look to it for assistance in optimising workflow, identifying which personnel are necessary and cutting out the excess cost, creating lean organisations that make the most of their resources and reduce expenses as a result.

"We have sub-speciality radiologists on our team," adds De Grijs. "You can have neuro, thorax or musculoskeletal radiologists who we make available for even the smallest hospitals. Clients can therefore get radiologists with specialist knowledge that they wouldn’t be able to recruit or afford otherwise."

Culture of improvement

This is an important selling point for TeleConsult Europe’s services – that customers can make use of in-depth expertise they would otherwise not have access to, all while paying less for radiology services.

The company guarantees this through a quality-assurance programme. The process begins with the building of a waiting list of medical specialists who want to work with them. If they are hired, following rigorous assessment and evaluation, their performance is then monitored through examinations, or reports and peer reviews from colleagues.

"This type of peer reviewing also starts a process of communication that in itself provides a sense of belonging, a sense of being part of the TeleConsult team," explains De Grijs. "Together, our staff improve their performance and quality as a whole."

The company is also branching out into offering remote telepathology and telemicrobiology services – particularly useful for the most remote rural hospitals or laboratories in the Middle East or eastern Europe, for example.

TeleConsult Europe now has specialists all over the world, from Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland to the US, the Caribbean and Singapore. The beauty of the system is that no matter where in the world high-quality radiology expertise is needed, TeleConsult Europe provide it.