PACS Benefits Go Beyond the Numbers

2009-10-05
 

PACS Benefits: Improve Patient CareThree short years ago, FirstHealth of the Carolinas was facing somewhat of an operational mountain. On the plus side, the organization had been experiencing 100% year-over-year growth for two straight years. But with that significant growth came an overwhelming 650 applications to manage.

FirstHealth identified the potential Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) benefits as a way to increase operational efficiencies, reduce costs and improve patient care.

And that’s exactly what it achieved.  The PACS has allowed FirstHealth to cut its annual film budget by more than 37%, from around $80,000 to $50,000, FirstHealth Director of Imaging Mike McCarty told Computerworld.

Today, the PACS not only provides instant digital images to FirstHealth’s three hospitals spread across North Carolina: Moore Regional in Pinehurst, Richmond Memorial in Rockingham and Montgomery Memorial in Troy. It also serves healthcare organizations and local practices outside of the FirstHealth network, including Pinehurst Medical Clinic, Inc.

PACS Benefits Beyond the Numbers
An unexpected PACS benefit has been collaboration among radiologists, the organization reports. Radiologists are seeking each other’s opinions even more so today than when they had to stand side-by-side to view the film.

“Now, it only takes a phone call to a colleague at another workstation, and then we can view the case simultaneously and discuss it. Patients benefit from the interpretive skills of the entire group,” says Dr. David Furie in the FirstHealth internal magazine.

For instance, two Pinehurst radiologists take turns covering Montgomery Memorial during the week. With the ability to view the images from a computer, these radiologists are now able to pick up the phone, call a radiologist at Pinehurst and immediately obtain a second opinion. And when there is no radiologist on site in Troy, a radiologist in Pinehurst can instantly view images.

“Before, we sometimes had to package up the films and make a trip to Pinehurst that very day,” says Leslie Champion in the FirstHealth magazine. “That was hardly efficient. Now we are very efficient.”

Improve Patient Care
As another PACS benefit, FirstHealth also improves patient care by providing higher-quality images and therefore more accurate diagnoses.

With the system, radiologists can electronically manipulate images to enlarge areas, enhance clarity, rotate images and create 3-D images of organs, tissues, bones and blood vessels, the organization says.

For example, doctors can look down the center of cardiac or pulmonary vessels to search for abnormalities, says Dr. Furie in the FirstHealth magazine. That increases the organization’s ability to detect for diseases and improve patient care.

“The PACS system is increasing our capability so much that it’s almost like going from playing LP vinyl records to carrying iPods in our pockets,” Dr. Furie says.

Suggest an additional case study or whitepaper to appear on the McKesson Medical Imaging Blog.

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