Feature | May 12, 2010 | Cristen C. Bolan

Digital Imaging Transforms a Nation

The team of providers from Global Media, MedWeb, iCRco and MinXray.

(Right) Dr. Juan Vasquez reviews an image with the Minister of Health.

Honduran Minister of Health, Dr. Arturo Bendaa, Jeffrey E. Heck, M.D., founder of Shoulder to Shoulder.

Are you one of those people who gets really excited about a new gadget, only to pull your hair out later trying to figure out how it works? If you have a global positioning system (GPS), you can probably relate. It takes more than just buying new technology, you need to learn how to use it.
The same holds true for health care information technology (IT). In a recent study,* physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital wanted to know if electronic health records (EHRs) had improved quality and efficiency. After reviewing a large pool of hospitals, the results were a bit underwhelming. There was not a clinically significant relationship between EHRs and quality and efficiency.
But before you write off the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act as a $20 billion blunder, there was an important lesson learned in that study. “To drive substantial gains in quality and efficiency, simply adopting electronic health records is likely to be insufficient. Instead, policies are needed that encourage the use of electronic health records in ways that will lead to improvements in care.”
Any radiologist could have told you that, having endured the agony of converting from analog to digital imaging. Once radiology adopted picture archive and communication systems (PACS), they had to navigate the learning curve. Although many radiologists fondly refer to PACS as pain and constant suffering, they do see the huge advantage of using a digital platform.
With digital imaging, especially a Web-based PACS, you can access an exponential amount of data. Referring physicians and specialists exchange information so readily today; they can even go into the other doctor’s radiology information system (RIS) and order an imaging exam.
To gauge the relationship between RIS/PACS and quality and efficiency, we surveyed our readers, asking you to vote on the “Most Wired Outpatient Center.” The top centers and their IT solutions are highlighted on page 34.
Each of these outpatient centers is securing its future by building a robust IT infrastructure. And they know how to use it.

Digital X-ray Deployed in Honduras
The impact of digital imaging and information systems is so powerful, it can transform any health care system, whether it’s advanced or developing.
I saw this first hand when I had the privilege of working with a team of medical equipment providers who donated a suite of equipment to a new clinic in rural Honduras.
The Roy and Melanie Sanders Frontera Medical Center, the sixth clinic opened by the nongovernmental organization Shoulder to Shoulder, set the stage for digital X-ray’s entry into Honduras’ public health system.
The new technology included Global Media’s telemedicine system and ultrasound probe, MedWeb’s VirtualPACS, MinXray’s portable X-ray, and iCRco’s computed radiography unit. Honduran doctors gave a live demonstration to Minister of Health Dr. Arturo Bendaña and the community on how rapidly they could capture, review and upload digital medical images.
Jeffrey E. Heck, M.D., executive director and founder of Shoulder to Shoulder, explained to onlookers that this was a model for the sustainable delivery of advanced health care to isolated areas of the developing world.

For the complete story, turn to “Radiology Delivers Modern Medicine to Rural Honduras” on page 6 of this issue.
Imaging Technology News captured the event on video, which we will present in a panel discussion, “Zero Footprint Radiology and Telemedicine Build a Platform for Sustainable Care,” at the SIIM 2010 Annual Meeting, at 9:30 a.m., Friday, June 4.

*Reference: DesRoches, C., Campbell , E., Vogeli, E., et al. “Electronic Health Records’ Limited Successes Suggest More Targeted Uses.” Health Affairs, 29, no. 4 (2010): 639-646. April 2010.

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