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Diagnostic imaging

Newfoundland & Labrador to create province-wide PACS

CORNER BROOK, Nfld. – Health and Community Services Minister John Ottenheimer (pictured) has announced that a contribution of $10.5 million by Canada Health Infoway, combined with Government’s investment of $4 million in Budget 2005, will support the development of a province-wide Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS) in Newfoundland and Labrador by 2007.

The Infoway funding was confirmed at a news conference in Corner Brook by Mike Sheridan, COO of Infoway.

PACS is a computer system that allows diagnostic images – including X-rays, MRI, ultrasounds and CT scans – to be digitally captured, viewed, stored and transmitted electronically from one site to another. It replaces conventional X-ray film and greatly improves access to patient information by enabling referring clinicians to review patient images on computers anywhere in the province.

“Government is committed to investing in electronic information systems for storing and managing patient records, which will result in a seamless flow of patient care information across delivery systems,” said Minister Ottenheimer. “PACS will benefit patients, healthcare providers and managers through improved access to diagnostic imaging services in rural areas, reduced wait time for patients in physicians’ offices, improved access to specialist consultations due to improved image portability, prevention of some patient transfers by being able to take and read images in one location and have them reviewed by a physician in another, and increased test-to-results time.”

A combined investment of $14.5 million by government and Infoway will result in the implementation of the PACS project in the Western and Labrador-Grenfell regions of the province, allowing these regions to link into existing sites in Central and Eastern regions. Once completed, the integrated PACS will provide consistent and virtually seamless, province-wide access to a patient’s complete diagnostic record by their healthcare provider. By 2007, there will be 27 PACS sites in the province.

“Newfoundland and Labrador has already made significant progress in the area of electronic health records and today’s $10.5-million investment by Infoway will make this province one of the first completely filmless provinces when it comes to diagnostic imaging,” said Richard Alvarez, President and CEO of Infoway. “This project will be an example to other provinces and is the first step toward our goal of making diagnostic images available for 50 percent of all Canadians by 2009.”

The PACS project, an initiative of the Department of Health and Community Services, in collaboration with Infoway and managed by the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information, will allow for primary reporting, on-call coverage, and immediate remote consultation allowing both the clinician and the referring radiologist to review the same images at the same time.

It also means fewer exams are repeated when patients are sent to secondary and/or tertiary sites for consultation. All diagnostic images will be stored in a central repository managed by Eastern Health. All necessary provincial privacy and security requirements will be adhered to in the management and use of personal information as it pertains to this central repository.

While acknowledging the importance of both the province’s contribution and Infoway’s investment, Centre for Health Information CEO, Steve O’Reilly, emphasized that “the greatest investment in this project has been made by dedicated health professionals who have readily come together, collaborating with one another to build a single shared provincial PACS network.”

About the Centre for Health Information
The Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information currently manages the DI/PACS initiative in collaboration with Infoway and the Department of Health and Community Services. The Centre was established in 1996 to ensure quality health information is available for health care, system-wide planning, research, and policy development. Through collaboration with the health system, the Centre has fostered expertise in health information systems development and management, applied health research, data quality and collection, education, and personal information protection.

About Canada Health Infoway
Canada Health Infoway is an independent, not-for-profit organization that invests with public sector partners across Canada to implement and reuse compatible health information systems that support a safer, more efficient healthcare system. These systems provide healthcare professionals with rapid access to complete and accurate patient information, enabling better decisions about treatment and diagnosis. The result is a sustainable, more cost-efficient healthcare system offering improved patient safety and better quality of care. As of November 30, 2005, Infoway had approved $427 million for 141 projects in every Canadian province and territory, including 59 pan-Canadian projects.