HCMC moving to digital scanning

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Billie Kueser of the radiology staff, operates the new CR scanner installed at HCMC. The new equipment will create patient scans within seconds for immediate reading anywhere in the world.

A major equipment upgrade begun at Hillsboro Community Medical Center will vastly reduce the time needed for doctors and staff to review patient radiology scans.

Once all three stages of the project are complete in about mid-January, HCMC staff will be able to view results from those scans almost immediately?or send them electronically for review by a specialist almost anywhere in the world.

All in a matter of minutes.

?That?s a huge benefit for the community once we get all that up and running,? said Mike Ryan, HCMC chief executive officer.

The former film-based process used at HCMC would require several minutes simply to develop a single scan. If the purpose for a scan was relatively routine, the hospital would hold them until specialists from Emporia would stop by on a twice-weekly basis to read them.

Now, the digital images can be transmitted in seconds to those same specialists?or any other specialist deemed necessary for further analysis, according to Ryan.

?Instead of being produced on film and run through a developer, (the scans) are now digitally imaged and shown on a computer monitor,? he said. ?No film has to be produced.

?We?ll still keep using the radiologists in Emporia, but once we get this all up and running, they?ll be able to stay in Emporia and read our films on a daily basis instead of coming out here twice a week.

?Plus, if we have a trauma or an accident, we can have scans read immediately.?

The new digital process not only is faster, it can also reveal greater detail that can enhance the diagnosis process.

?You might find smaller tumors or anomalies,? said HCMC radiologist Billie Kueser, who has been trained to run the new system. ?With what we did before, those kind of things may be missed.?

The transition to the digital system is being implemented in three phases, according to Ryan.

The first phase, now complete, was the installation of the computed radiology (CR) equipment that does the initial digital scanning.

The second phase will be connecting with the ?picture archiving and communication system,? or PACS, a computer network dedicated to the storage, retrieval, distribution and presentation of the images.

?Basically now, when (HCMC staff) get done with the image here, they hit ?send to printer,?? Ryan said. ?What will happen when we get the PACS up and running is that will hit ?send to PACS.?

?At that point an image will go to a server here, so it will be saved here. An identical image will go to two places in Wichita, so it will basically be in three places?all secure.?

At that point, Ryan said, a radiologist would be able to read those films from anywhere in the world.

?If we wanted a radiologist in the Philippines to read the films, he could,? he said.

The third stage of the transition will be the installation of a 16-slice computed axial tomography?CT or CAT?scanner.

?With all the images it produces, it makes a whole lot more sense to use in a digitally stored system versus producing film,? Ryan said, explaining why the new scanner would be installed after the PACS is online.

?Also, in trauma situations, we?re more often going to use CT than normal radiography for head trauma and things like that,? he added.

?You?re going to be much more likely, on a trauma basis, to take a CT scan and have it read within minutes.

?The 16-slice scanner will be so much faster than what we have now?the study times will be cut dramatically.?

The cost of the equipment upgrade at HCMC will be about $510,000, plus a PACS fee based on usage.

?It will be well worth the investment for the improved quality of care we can provide at HCMC,? Ryan said.

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