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Diagnostic imaging

Alberta to create province-wide PACS network

EDMONTON – Alberta has announced plans to invest $189 million over a three-year period to create a province-wide, computerized network for diagnostic imaging.

The network will include Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS), and digital modalities such as X-ray, MRI and CT. It will also make use of radiological information systems (RIS), the text reports which describe and analyze patient images. Overall, it’s said to be the largest digital diagnostic imaging project launched in Canada.

Canada Health Infoway is involved as a partner, and will inject $46 million, its largest contribution so far. Alberta intends to invest $143 million.

The pan-Albertan network is expected to be completed by March 2008. The blueprint calls for three major repositories – one in Calgary for the Calgary Health Region, another in Edmonton for the Capital Health area, and a third in Red Deer, for the remaining regions as part of the Regional Shared health Information Program (RSHIP).

The system will be designed to capture all of the radiology exams done at hospitals and independent clinics throughout the province – a total of about 4 million diagnostic imaging exams each year. (For sake of comparison, about 16 million DI exams are performed annually in Ontario.)

Infoway’s president and CEO Richard Alvarez (pictured at left) commented that dramatic gains can be realized for patients and healthcare providers through investments in digital diagnostic imaging systems.

“Digital diagnostic imaging is the low-hanging fruit of the healthcare system,” said Alvarez. “Investments in this area have immediate value for patients.”
He explained that the creation of PACS systems result in a myriad of advantages, including the following:

• reduced travel for both patients and radiologists;
• faster access to expert radiologists who can read the exams;
• less waiting for results and for treatment to start;
• fewer duplicate tests because the latest results are available to all physicians at the touch of few buttons;
• the elimination of lost X-rays.

A recent study by Infoway estimates benefits of $1 billion per year through the use of digital DI systems, with major gains in the elimination of film and chemistry, the recovery of storage space for hospitals and clinics, and the productivity advantages for radiologists and patients.

(Additional information will be included in the September print edition of Canadian Healthcare Technology magazine,