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Diagnostic imaging

Saskatchewan to launch provincial PACS

REGINA – Saskatchewan Health announced that plans are moving ahead on a new Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) and Radiology Information System (RIS) that will improve diagnostic imaging services and make diagnostic images and results available electronically to healthcare providers across the province.

Total costs of implementing the system are estimated at $35 million, with Canada Health Infoway contributing $11.4 million.

The government of Saskatchewan and the health regions will monitor the PACS/RIS implementation and base future investments on progress. Savings from reduced and eliminated costs associated with processing and handling traditional diagnostic imaging films are expected to help offset implementation costs.

“A secure system to schedule, store and transmit digital images will improve access to diagnostic services,” Health Minister Len Taylor said at an announcement at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital. “The quick exchange of digital images between healthcare settings across Saskatchewan will save time, improve the capacity of our diagnostic imaging departments and reduce costs and delays to the health system and to patients.”

“Ultimately, putting better information at the care provider’s fingertips will result in improved access, quality and productivity of our healthcare system,” said Richard Alvarez, President and CEO of Canada Health Infoway, which invests with public sector partners to accelerate the creation of electronic health record systems across Canada. “Saskatchewan is well on its way to embracing the benefits of innovative technology to improve healthcare,” he added.

A Radiology Information System will link with existing hospital information systems to co-ordinate patient information, including X-ray, CT scan and MRI results. The multi-year project will result in a system that stores and digital imaging studies and allows health providers to securely access them throughout the province. The system will schedule patients for diagnostic imaging services, improve the utilization of diagnostic staff and equipment, and eventually link with a diagnostic imaging wait list registry in Saskatchewan.

“Having access to images and diagnostic reports from across the province will significantly enhance the process of diagnosis for the people of Saskatchewan,” said Dr. Brent Burbridge, a radiologist from Saskatoon. “The need to repeat examinations when patients move from one health region to another will be minimized. Physicians, regardless of their location, through access to a province-wide imaging network, will be able to consult over long distances, resulting in reductions in time to diagnosis, travel expenses, and the stress associated with diagnostic imaging examinations.”

Electronic transfers of diagnostic images will allow patients’ local physicians to consult with specialists over long distances, resulting in reduced travel time and costs for patients and more timely availability of results. In addition to speeding up the diagnostic process, the system will also cut down on duplicate testing, which will reduce patients’ exposure to radiation.

Implementation of the radiology information system will be complete in Saskatoon and Regina by the end of 2007. The next phase in 2008 will add the six regional hospitals located in Yorkton, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, North Battleford, Lloydminster and Prince Albert. These hospitals provide more than 75 percent of the public sector medical imaging in the province.