Published on Wed, 12/17/2008 by Canada Health Infoway

ATTN: ONTARIO NEWS/HEALTH EDITORS - Better patient care in Ontario with digital diagnostic imaging

Thousands of Ontarians are getting faster access to quality health care thanks to Canada’s investments in digital diagnostic imaging.

Dr. Donald Taves, chief of radiology at St. Joseph’s Health Care in London, Ontario, says advances in digital diagnostic imaging means x-rays, ultrasounds, and CT and MRI scans can now be available to authorized health care professionals and patients faster and better than ever before. Clinicians can have access to the images no matter where the test was conducted or where the health care provider is located.

The sharing and remote access to diagnostic imaging files is made possible by modern digital archiving capabilities known as Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS).

"Day in and day out, PACS is enhancing patient care and the abilities of the caregiver," says Taves. "It's a profound statement, but PACS is changing and radically improving the way we practice medicine."

Taves cites the case of 50-year-old man whose CT scan, conducted for another condition, revealed a kidney mass. Previous tests had also showed the mass. Because PACS provided access to all of the test images, doctors could compare them, see the mass had not changed, and determine it was nothing more than a benign lump.

"That meant no unnecessary tests, no unnecessary fear for the patient and a quick understanding by medical personnel about what they were dealing with," says Taves.

Richard Alvarez, president and CEO of Canada Health Infoway (Infoway) says PACS - funded in partnership with the federal government and the provinces and territories - could benefit some 26 million Canadians by March 31, 2009. "PACS improves productivity for doctors, technologists and radiologists, as well as access to care. People get their diagnosis twice as fast, and treatment can start sooner."

An independent report commissioned by Infoway to evaluate the benefits of digital diagnostic imaging and PACS notes other significant benefits such as reduced time to treat patients, improved quality of patient management, and shorter hospital stays. For clinicians it cites fewer duplicate exams and better use of financial and human resources.

Taves notes that PACS enables diagnostic image specialists to share their expertise. "My expertise is gastrointestinal, not so much prenatal," he says. "In one case I saw something on a pregnant woman's ultrasound that concerned me. But I could call up an expert in this area who, using PACS, could look at what I saw in the chambers of the fetal heart. Within hours we knew if there was something to worry about or not, and the mother was directed to proper care."

Infoway, an independent, not-for-profit organization funded by the federal government, jointly invests with every province and territory to accelerate the development and adoption of electronic health record projects, including PACS. These secure systems provide the information clinicians need to better support safe care decisions and the information patients need to manage their own health.

To learn more about the difference electronic health record investments are making to the health care of Canadians, visit www.infoway-inforoute.ca.

Digital diagnostic imaging benefits: By the numbers

The benefits of digital diagnostic imaging (DI) systems to Canadians and their health care providers are making a difference every single day across the country. Personal stories attest to the human value of the $337 million Canada Health Infoway (Infoway) has invested in 22 Canadian DI and related projects to date. But when you look at the cold hard facts, the picture is even more impressive. By the end of March, 2009, Infoway estimates 79 per cent of Canadians could benefit from these systems.

How? By the numbers, the use of digitized imaging and supporting systems, known as PACS (Picture Archiving and Communications Systems) will:

1. Create up to 30 per cent improvement in radiologists' productivity. That's equivalent to the work of more than 500 radiologists in our health care system.

2. Enable up to 30 per cent improvement in technologists' productivity, which is equal to the work of another 2,900 technologists in our health care system.

3. Allow doctors to save up to 60 minutes a week in decision-making time, which translates to the work of another 500 doctors in our health care system. This time-saving works out to seven million 10-minute physician consults each year.

4. Improve exam report turnaround times by as much as 40 per cent, enabling quicker clinical decisions and more timely treatment.

5. Eliminate as many as 17,000 unnecessary patient transfers between health care facilities. As well, up to one million unnecessary exams are eliminated each year.

6. As many as 40 per cent of radiologists report using PACS to provide services to new or remote sites, improving access in remote geographic areas and populations.

7. Generate up to $1 billion a year in health system efficiencies through increased clinical productivity and reduced patient transfers, duplicate exams and film costs, once PACS is fully in place across the country.

It all adds up to improved access and quality of care for patients and greater productivity for clinicians. To learn more, visit www.infoway-inforoute.ca.

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For more information contact:

Dan Strasbourg
Canada Health Infoway
416.595.3424
dstrasbourg@infoway-inforoute.ca