Outsourcing vs. Insourcing Quality Control Procedures
A gamma camera is a sophisticated piece of technology. In order to maintain it in the best possible working order, certain Quality Control Procedures (QC) need to be performed on a regular basis. Traditionally, these procedures were performed by Technologist, Physics Support or Biomedical Engineering personnel. A new trend is emerging where QC procedures are being outsourced to a third party. This paper will contrast the practices of Outsourcing QC procedures versus performing the procedures In-House.
Proper testing requires proper equipment. This equipment and supplies and can be a significant expense.
An Outsourced Service Provider (OSP) will own the specialized equipment and testing supplies needed to perform the QC procedures. The proper equipment specific to the different imaging systems must be available for use in the testing process.
In contrast, it is very common for the In-House testing program to have an incomplete set of phantoms and equipment for the range of imaging systems in use. It would be very cost prohibitive to own the required sets of equipment for a multi-camera facility.
When QC is outsourced, a detailed schedule is developed that assures the appropriate tests are performed at the appropriate intervals. The tests are usually performed during off-hours so that normal imaging operations and scheduling are not disturbed. This allows the imaging facility to concentrate on imaging patients and the OSP to concentrate on maintaining the equipment.
As opposed to the structured schedule offered by an OSP, In-House programs are often unstructured and tend to rely on the already busy Imaging Technologist to perform the QC procedures ‘as time allows’. Unfortunately, too often this means that the QC procedures simply are not performed due to the heavy workload experienced in most imaging facilities. Additionally, QC procedures are not viewed as important relative to Patient imaging procedures, in terms of providing Customer Service or Revenue Generation. In the best In-House programs, a block of time is set aside for QC procedures where no patient studies are scheduled. Again, this reduces the imaging facility’s overall throughput and revenue.
An OSP is an expert specializing in QC procedures and will have access to the latest recommendations and practices. An OSP has many years of experience testing a variety imaging systems and often has a good working relationship with equipment service and repair personnel. An OSP knows the proper testing procedures and intervals, knows the expected results, and knows the corrective actions to take when problems are detected.
On the other hand, In-House staff will be experts in their specific discipline, for example Nuclear Medicine Technology or Electrical Engineering, but will seldom be experts in QC procedures. Unlike the OSP, In-House staff will not have the detailed and updated information required to detect and correct problems with the imaging equipment.