Unilabs Radiology Spain: Leading in Digitalisation for Enhanced Diagnosis and Patient Experience Skip to main content


21 May 2024

Unilabs Radiology Spain: Leading in Digitalisation for Enhanced Diagnosis and Patient Experience

Since integrating the Centro Scanner Group in 2022, Unilabs has emerged as the largest network of diagnostic imaging clinics in Spain. Its primary goal is to invest in technology and innovation to provide patients with the highest quality experience and diagnosis.

Diagnostic innovation: Enhancing lumbar spine MRI reading and reporting

Artificial Intelligence is currently one of the most talked-about subjects in healthcare, and Unilabs has established a dedicated department known as the AI Centre of Excellence to pinpoint the most impactful applications of AI within healthcare.

After extensive collaboration with the Spanish radiology team, last April, the Unilabs AI Centre of Excellence embarked on the implementation of a cutting-edge tool designed to enhance lumbar spine MRI interpretation and reporting. To delve into this pilot project within Unilabs, we interviewed Dr Fernando Bergaz, Unilabs Spain Medical Director, whose dedication made the startup and deployment of this project possible.

What is the balance one year after the implementation of this solution in Spain?

The balance has been magnificent. Implementing AI tools is not always simple and can create certain resistances. However, the collaboration of our radiologists and the usability of the tool has greatly facilitated the process. We started with implementation in a single centre, five others have already joined, and three more will join in the next three months.

What have been the challenges?

We have faced several challenges. On one hand, we had to confront a computer challenge, as this tool operates through a system parallel to the usual one and must be ‘invisible’ to the radiologist. On the other hand, it facilitates and accelerates the reporting of the test because it offers a pre-report, but this must be correctly written, adjusted to Spanish and updated medical terminology. Significant effort has been made in this regard. And finally, we have had to deal with resistance to change. As mentioned, it is not always easy to introduce new systems, but gradual implementation has allowed professionals to become accustomed to using the tool as support in their daily work, and now they are delighted.

What are the advantages?

The system highlights possible alterations for the radiologist to evaluate. That is, instead of seeing ‘a needle in a haystack,’ we see a beam. This greatly helps in producing a correct report. The tool also provides multiple automated measurements that were not previously taken. This complements the report and makes it more precise.

When is the implementation of this solution in other countries planned?

In Spain, we continue testing and improving the system. When all tests have been completed, the implementation in other countries will be evaluated.

Operational innovation: Digitalising processes to improve patient experience

In addition to investing in cutting-edge medical technology, the radiology division of Unilabs Spain is focused on digitalising its operations to offer superior service and experience to patients. Drawing inspiration from the pioneering efforts of Unilabs Radiology Norway, whose successful model serves as a guide for the entire group, their digitalisation journey began in Malaga. To gain insights into this project, we interviewed Raquel García, radiology operations manager, and Almudena Ruiz, PMO, who are the architects of the various operational improvements being implemented.

What are the main improvements in the processes you are implementing?

Firstly, we have made significant improvements in our administrative processes, automating almost all our internal procedures. This has allowed us to eliminate the use of physical supports such as paper and CDs, improving both the control and efficiency of our resources as well as reducing our carbon footprint.

Furthermore, we have standardised processes in different areas of the centres, from administration to the contact centre, technicians, and radiologists. This has resulted in a notable improvement in patient referral times, with an average reduction of 82% since April 2023.

Another significant improvement has been the development of process control and measurement tools. This development has allowed us to reduce downtime on diagnostic equipment and adjust appointment times according to actual activity. Consequently, we have observed a 42% increase in MRI productivity from March 2023 to October 2023.

We have implemented a digital patient call system at each stage of the process, from admission to the technical area. This has improved the patient journey through our centres and facilitated communication between departments.

We have also installed visual guides that direct the patient to the examination area once called by the technician who will perform the test, improving the comfort and efficiency of the service. Additionally, we have reduced waiting times at reception by 67%.

In line with our commitment to patient experience and the environment, we have eliminated the physical delivery of results, thus reducing unnecessary travel and the use of stationery and CD materials by 90%.

Finally, we have incorporated geolocation details of our centres into appointment reminders, making it easier for our patients to find us.

What are the first results?

We have seen a significant improvement in our operational visibility, allowing us to swiftly identify and address any shortcomings. Moreover, we have enhanced the efficiency of our internal processes, enabling our departments to operate more effectively with standardised procedures.

Our groundwork has paved the way for advancements in digitalisation and process automation, as well as the optimal design of our schedules. Moving forward, our focus will be on enhancing functionalities for the patient, including web appointments and the patient portal.

Furthermore, we have achieved notable increases in production per machine by synchronising appointment times with test schedules. In some instances, such as CT scans, productivity has surged by over 75%. 

What is the reaction of the patients?

We have noticed that patients in our centres are experiencing greater autonomy and efficiency, resulting in reduced waiting times. Moreover, we have seen a notable increase in satisfaction levels from 85% to 93% over the last three months. This satisfaction is measured through an internal rating system located in the preparation booths, where patients are invited to rate their experience at the end of their tests.

What about patients less familiar with technology?

For patients who may struggle with new technologies, we provide accommodations and offer traditional care and result delivery systems. Ensuring that all patients receive accessible and comfortable care and information is a top priority for us. We are committed to providing every patient with excellent care experience.

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