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

ATTN: QUEBEC NEWS/HEALTH EDITORS - Technology improving Quebec health care

The expansion of digital diagnostic imaging systems across Quebec is giving emergency department staff better access to the specialized knowledge needed to make life-saving diagnoses.

Dr. Jean Chalaoui, chief of the cardiopulmonary imaging division at the Université de Montréal Hospital Center (CHUM) and co-director of the joint McGill- Montreal-University PACS project, cites a case where a 52-year-old-man at a Montreal hospital had severe chest pain. Doctors at the hospital were able to collaborate remotely with experts from other centres in Quebec using digital diagnostic imaging technology to determine there was a small cut in the man’s aorta that would have killed him within hours without emergency surgery.

"It was because we could get a team of cardiology and thoracic image experts to look and consult with us that we knew what to do almost immediately," says Chalaoui. "These are the kinds of great strides we are making in treatment thanks to PACS today."

Advancements in digital diagnostic imaging means x-rays, ultrasounds, CT and MRI scans can now be available to authorized health care professionals and patients faster and better than ever before, 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).

About 70 per cent of the 7.6 million medical images created annually by Quebec's public sector are already digital. By the end of 2009, that will increase to 90 per cent. At the Montreal and McGill integrated university networks (RUIS), the system will be fully digitized by June 2010.

PACS is also valuable in improving access to care in remote communities in Quebec's far north.

Chalaoui cites the case of a man hurt in an ATV accident who was spared a dangerous transfer for treatment to an urban hospital because specialists could view his diagnostic images in Montreal using PACS.

"He was treated locally and it was the best patient outcome," Dr. Chalaoui said. "He stayed in his community and with his family, which was very valuable for his care. These cases I am citing are typical cases we encounter all the time now."

Richard Alvarez, president and CEO of Canada Health Infoway (Infoway), says PACS - funded in partnership with 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, so treatment can begin much 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.

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