The Main Line Health System is taking the first step toward "filmless" diagnostic imaging with the installation of a digital radiology system at its three acute care hospitals - Bryn Mawr, Lankenau and Paoli.
Two years in the making, the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) project is debuted at the Main Line hospitals this summer with the arrival of the first workstations in radiology, echocardiology, and the cardiac catheterization laboratories.
No longer will physicians have to wait for X-rays to be developed and view large, bulky film. They'll just walk over to a computer station and immediately see the X-rays on a screen.
"Digital radiology contributes to improved patient care by delivering timely and accurate diagnostic information," said Andrew Curtin, MD, Chief of Radiology at Lankenau. "It will enable us to acquire, distribute, and archive medical images and diagnostic reports across the system."
Main Line Health's conversion to PACS began last fall at Lankenau when it was installed in the Emergency Department during a renovation project. Work on the system-wide initiative got into full swing this year as Main Line Health began turning its vision of "any image, any place, any time" into a reality.
"Because we store the information in computers, that gives us tremendous flexibility," said Ray Baraldi, MD, Chairman of the Department of Radiology for Main Line Health. "As soon as we take an image, whether it's a chest X-ray or CT-scan, we can immediately transmit an infinite number of copies to any source that we want. We can store it and send it to radiology or to a referring physician. It gives everyone instant access to the information."
Most of radiology, cardiology and the Main Line Health Centers, located in Broomall, Exton and Collegeville, were connected in June. By early fall, physicians plan to have access to the images at their offices or homes through a secure portal on the Main Line Health Intranet.
The PACS rollout has involved extensive behind-the-scenes preparation-an infrastructure upgrade, installation of the network and servers, development of a unique corporate identification system, and an assessment of the radiology workflow.
Working with Drs. Curtin and Baraldi are Dr. Emma Simpson, chief of Radiology at Bryn Mawr Hospital, and Dr. Robert Pinsk, chief of Radiology at Paoli Hospital.
PACS has gained widespread acceptance in the last few years, according to PACS and Networking News, which estimated the U.S. market in 2000 to be anywhere from $200 million to $400 million. It traces its roots to the military, where the original intent was to send images from battlefield hospitals to the main hospital without developing film, Curtin explained.
With more than two-thirds of the medical staff active at more than one of the three hospitals, Curtin said PACS will help doctors keep better track of their patients. "If your patient had a CT scan last week at Paoli and you're at Bryn Mawr today, you can log onto PACS and call up that scan," said Dr. Pinsk.
Baraldi said PACS applies 21st century technology to health care by offering "instant access, spontaneous transfer of information, ease of storage, and ease of portability." PACS eliminates the need for hospitals to buy, process, and store film, and saves the staff time wasted in retrieving studies-up to 45 minutes a day per physician, according to some reports.
Curtin estimated that if the hospitals were completely filmless, it would save about $1,000 a day across the Main Line Health System. "Our referring physicians and patients can rest assured that old fashioned film will always be available if needed but we are confident most will turn to faster access over the internet or through the convenience of CD's," added Dr. Simpson.
© 2013 Main Line Health