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Diagnostic imaging

NWT, Yukon invest in filmless radiology

YELLOWKNIFE and WHITEHORSE – The Northwest Territories and Yukon have announced filmless radiology projects.

Over the course of the next three to four months, Stanton Territorial Hospital, Inuvik Regional Hospital, H. H. Williams Hospital and the Fort Smith Health Centre in the NWT will go filmless.

Physicians and technologists will no longer have to create or view diagnostic images using film. Instead, they will be using the Diagnostic Imaging Picture Archiving and Communications System (DI/PACS) to capture, store, distribute and review all patient diagnostic images.

There are numerous benefits of moving to DI/PACS technology:

• no time spent waiting for the delivery of films. Instead, images are routed to radiologists in a matter of seconds. That means quicker report turn-around times, resulting in faster diagnosis and decisions relating to treatment;

• flexible viewing for physicians and hospital staff (clinicians can consult on images at the same time from different locations);

• no longer will we have the costs associated with “hard copy” film, developing and storage; and

• no lost or misplaced images resulting in unnecessary duplication of exams.

The implementation of DI/PACS throughout the four hospitals is planned to be completed by the end of May 2009.

“By moving from film to filmless, we are now able to process images much faster than before,” said the Honourable Sandy Lee, Minister of Health and Social Services. “This is an important step towards improving service delivery to our residents.”

The DI/PACS implementation will represent an investment of $5.9 million: $4.3 million from Canada Health Infoway and $1.6 million from the Government of the Northwest Territories.

“The availability of digitized diagnostic images means radiologists are now able to support care delivery and improve access remotely for patients who live in underserviced areas,” said Richard Alvarez, President and CEO, Canada Health Infoway. “As a result, diagnoses are made much more quickly, speeding access to treatment closer to home.”

Currently, healthcare professionals from over 18 community facilities in the Northwest Territories transport patient film-based images by traditional mail or by air to Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife, the only facility in the territory with a radiologist. Once in place, Agfa HealthCare’s IMPAX solution will connect the four main hospitals in the region to provide caregivers with more efficient and convenient access to patient information and images.

Moreover, the government of NWT plans to deploy computed radiography systems in the 18 community health centers currently providing diagnostic imaging (DI) services across the Territories. These systems will eventually connect to Agfa HealthCare’s IMPAX solution connecting the vast geography of the Territories to the Territorial PACS.
The solution being used is Agfa HealthCare’s IMPAX system, a web-deployable image and information management solution with advanced image processing designed to simplify customer reporting activities, increase throughput and improve report turnaround time, while connecting caregivers to the tools and knowledge they need to deliver quality healthcare efficiently.

“Extended wait times are still plaguing our healthcare system, and moving to a digital environment is the first step to expediting overall patient turnaround times,” said Dave Wilson, General Manager of Agfa HealthCare, Canada. “Advanced imaging technologies, such as IMPAX, will lay the groundwork for further IT deployments in the Northwest Territories and will enhance the delivery of patient care - ultimately getting us closer to making eHealth in Canada a reality.”
The IMPAX PACS project is set to be complete at the end of April, 2009, with the computed radiography projected for completion in June 2010.

Meanwhile, in Yukon, new digital tele-radiology equipment will replace existing film x-ray machines in community health centres, and give access to x-ray technology to Beaver Creek and Destruction Bay, who currently don’t have x-ray equipment in place.

Converting to digital technology will enable digital x-rays to be electronically sent for diagnosis, allowing diagnosis to occur much faster than the current situation, where film x-rays need to be physically mailed to a radiologist outside of the territory.

“Waiting for diagnosis can be a stressful time for patients and their families,” Hart said. “Providing more timely access to diagnosis will help reduce this wait-time, and ensure that treatment, if needed, occurs in a timely manner.” Replacing the existing film machines will also improve workplace safety for health centre employees, as they will no longer have to handle hazardous materials used in manual film processing.

Canada Health Infoway is providing $2.8 million towards the project, with the remaining $700,000 being funded by Yukon Health and Social Services, pending legislative approval.

“Advancements in digital diagnostic imaging are closing the geographical barriers in healthcare, enabling authorized healthcare professions to provide essential services regardless of where the test was conducted or where the healthcare provider is located,” said Richard Alvarez, President and CEO, Canada Health Infoway. “The result is faster diagnosis, allowing treatment to start sooner.”

Canada Health Infoway is an independent, not-for-profit organization funded by the federal government. Infoway jointly invests with every province and territory to accelerate the development and adoption of electronic health record projects in Canada. Fully respecting patient confidentiality, these secure systems will provide clinicians and patients with the information they need to better support safe care decisions and manage their own health. Accessing this vital information quickly will help foster a more modern and sustainable healthcare system for all Canadians.