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Teaching Hospital Embraces Cutting-Edge Technology

Converting an academic medical center to Web-based digital imaging

Abstract

Xray2A large academic medical center in California wanted to implement a Web-based image distribution system to improve access to radiological information for its patients across the entire medical center.

The Challenge

The client decided to move quickly to replace its film-based radiology system and existing Picture Archive Communication System (PACS) because of the opportunity to realize quality, efficiency and cost benefits. 

There were a number of challenges with the film-based system and existing PACS: 

  1. The length of time from order to results available was not satisfying for either clinicians or patients.
  2. Film management costs were continuing to escalate (including printing, storage and transportation of films across the medical center and its associated clinics).
  3. The existing PACS system did not allow for effective and efficient distribution of digital images across the medical center because of the need to use specialized workstations and a separate network to handle the large image files.

By moving to an enterprise-wide Web-based solution, the client could:

  • Shorten the amount of time between the information available from a patient’s diagnostic radiological imaging study and the next clinical decision by providing ready access to a patient’s radiological information—report and image—from any standard workstation on the client’s network
  • Decrease the cost of film/image management (including decreased printing, storage and transportation costs)

How We Helped

The implementation of the enterprise-wide Web-based imaging distribution project achieved its goals of providing radiological information, including images and radiology reports, anytime and anywhere for the client’s health care providers. Now, providers could readily access a patient’s radiological information from any one of the many workstations throughout the hospital, including those in the operating room and the emergency department and in i40 specialty and primary clinics. 

Additional benefits that were achieved by the implementation of the system:

  • Improved access to images across the medical center. Facilities with ready access include the hospital (the emergency department and the operating room), hospital-based clinics and the primary-care network. This allows for real-time consultation with specialists, as both the referring physician and the other consultant can view the same record simultaneously from two different locations
  • About $1 million in annual savings in labor and film costs
  • Decreased costs for copies of images for patients and referring physicians (outside of the client). Cost reduction from the supply chain was achieved by a savings in paper costs ($0.02 per sheet compared with $15/sheet of film) and the price of CDs (less than $1 per CD compared with $15/sheet of film)
  • Decrease by 90 percent in the use of hard-copy film
  • Decrease in the amount of time spent by clinicians gathering film/images for clinic, conferences and procedures
  • Decrease in the number of reprints due to lost films
  • Improved ability to readily integrate digital images into presentations and research papers
  • Improved ability to project images to a larger screen for teaching purposes

Solution

The use of high speed access to the Internet, faster desktops and improved search engines are now available at rates that most individuals can afford. Additionally, with the increasing use of the Internet to conduct transactions that contain personal information, such as bank accounts and credit card numbers, and the rising incidence of identity theft, individuals are more aware of the need to safeguard their privacy. Individuals are beginning to demand that their health care organizations meet these challenges.

By using a Web-based imaging distribution system, the client is now able to meet the challenges of providing patient information anytime and anywhere, managing the rising costs of providing health care and ensuring the privacy and security of patient information.

In addition, the client was nominated by its project team for the annual Computerworld Honors program. This program is designed to identify, honor and document innovations in information technology by individuals and organizations. This client’s case study was one of 50 case studies selected from several hundred submitted in the medicine category to receive Laureate recognition. The case study was inducted into the program’s archives, where it can be accessed by researchers and educators worldwide.

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