box10.gif (1299 bytes)







Diagnostic Imaging

York Central PACS will join region-wide DI network

RICHMOND HILL, Ont. – York Central Hospital, one of Ontario’s fastest-growing community hospitals, has begun implementation of a $5 million PACS and voice recognition dictation system that will speed up access to test images and reports for physicians, enabling them to make faster and higher-quality diagnoses.

The system will also be connected to a region-wide PACS that’s currently in the works and is expected to gain funding from the Canada Health Infoway early next year. Called the Toronto East Network PACS, the regional project will use a single repository to link the radiological images of 16 hospitals.

While York Central expects to benefit from that system, which will be developed over the next three to five years, it is obtaining immediate advantages from the hospital PACS that has just been implemented.

“We did 165,000 exams last year, which results in a very large number of images,” commented Dr. John McKee, lead radiologist at York Central. He noted that physicians now have access to those studies in seconds, instead of the hours or days it previously took to print film and have previous exams retrieved and delivered to the physicians and radiologists.

“We are saying good-bye to the inconvenience and higher cost of traditional diagnostic films in favour of the greater speed, clarity and cost efficiency of digital images,” he added.

Dr. McKee said the system is expected to pay for itself in five years through the reduction of film, processing, storage and retrieval costs. At the same time, however, the hospital expects improvements in patient care –- by receiving images faster, and using computerized tools for making quicker diagnoses, doctors are able to start treatments sooner.

That’s expected to translate into better outcomes for patients.

The PACS is being supplied by GE Healthcare, of Mississauga, Ont. It uses web technology to make images available to doctors across the hospital, as well as to affiliated physicians working outside the facility from their offices and homes. They can tap into the PACS through the hospital’s secure web portal.

And when patients need to provide images to specialists outside the hospital who aren’t associated with York Central, they can now have the pictures burned onto a CD. It’s faster than waiting for film, easier to carry, and patients don’t have to worry about returning images to the hospital.

York Central is a 430-bed hospital that has seen its case load grow by nearly 50 percent annually for the past four years. The hospital is under great pressure to keep costs in line as it strives to battle sickness and improve the quality of care. Electronic solutions are a key part of the strategy.

“We see the PACS as one of the most critical components of the Electronic Health Record that we’re building at the hospital,” said Diane Salois-Swallow, Chief Information and Privacy Officer for York Central in Richmond Hill and Chief Information Officer for Southlake Regional Health Centre, in Newmarket, Ont.

“Quicker access to diagnostic images and faster diagnoses will not only lead to better clinical results for patients,” said Salois-Swallow. “They may also lead to reductions in length of stay and thereby further reduce hospital costs, she predicted, as many patients will be able to start treatments earlier, instead of waiting for the results of tests.”

Salois-Swallow noted that the Toronto East Network (TEN) PACS, linking the DI images of 16 hospitals, is also a key step in the development of shareable electronic charts. “It will bring us closer to the pan-Canadian electronic health record,” she said.

A key part of the project is the creation of region-wide Enterprise Master Patient Index. Salois-Swallow said an announcement about the launch of the EMPI for Southlake Regional Health Centre and then York Central Hospital is forthcoming.

Bruce Harber, President and CEO of York Central, also emphasized the importance of electronic solutions to the hospital, and pointed out that the PACS will evolve over time to ensure that the latest technologies are being used, offering physicians and other healthcare providers the best tools possible.

“It’s a long-term agreement [with GE Healthcare] that makes sure the system is upgraded and remains state-of-the art,” said Harber.

Harber saluted the staff members who made the implementation a success, complimenting them for their people skills and the use of excellent project management techniques.

Laurie Rogers, general manager of GE Healthcare Information Technologies, concurred with Harber’s assessment, calling it one of the smoothest PACS implementations he has seen.

“We’ve installed over 70 systems like this across the country,” said Rogers. “We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. But this was one of the best –- it’s at the top of the list.”

Noting that York Central assessed PACS technologies for several years, Rogers said GE Healthcare listened to Dr. McKee and his peers, and during that time altered their own PACS offering to improve it. “We took out things they didn’t like, and added things they wanted. They’re now in the system,” said Rogers.