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Liberty Regional goes digital

Hospital computerizes X-ray systems

POSTED: March 8, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Alena Parker / Coastal Courier/

Chief radiologist Sanford Berens demonstrates how Liberty Regional's new PACS works. The system eliminates the need for X-ray film and equipment.

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X-ray film became a thing of the past at Liberty Regional Medical Center when the radiology department unveiled its new digital imaging storage system last month.
The printing archiving and communication system, or PACS, replaced the traditional X-ray by almost instantaneously producing a digital image, that can be manipulated by a doctor.
Radiologists no longer have to cross their fingers and hope for a clear X-ray photo. PACS allows them to easily read any once inconclusive image through computer formatting, such as adjusting contrast or magnification.
"The film is taken as it has been but instead of an X-ray being generated, it's put in electronically on a screen," LRMC chief radiologist, Sanford Berens, MD, explained.
"We can interpret as we always had, without having to go through films."
He described the machine as "cutting edge," putting LRMC on the same technological playing field as larger hospitals in Savannah.
"This is state-of-the-art," Leon Douglas, LRMC imaging director, added. "Instead of us being in the pioneer days, in the backwoods, this brings us up."
The leap forward replaces a system that was norm for more than 30 years, according to Douglas, where film development was often difficult.
"It was not unusual to go into a busy X-ray department and they'd have boots on because it was wet and you had to be careful," he said.
Chandra Surrency is the PACS administrator and traveled to New Jersey for week-long training on the new equipment.
She said the department made the transition because it works in everyone's favor.
"It's actually just making things easier for the patient, faster for the radiologists, the emergency room physicians. Everyone can just read things as soon as the exam's done," Surrency said.
Berens explained how PACS fits in the hospital's active emergency room by allowing more versatility in communication between him and emergency room physicians.
"The emergency physician will give his impression of an X-ray. I see that immediately...if I disagree with him, I send that. It's like texting back and forth," he said.
Even if a patient sees another doctor outside LRMC a copy of the images can be burned on a CD for easy transport or sent digitally.
"They (outside doctors) can see the images before the patient has made it back to their office," Surrency said.
She explained that PACS automatically audits itself and is a secure system.
"In order for all the different positions to have it (PACS), they have to have a security license," she said.
The hospital is leasing PACS for $8,000 a month, versus the $12,000 monthly budget under the previous procedures.
"The cost (of the lease) being much less than that of conventional film and chemistry, therefore funding comes through the associated cost savings," LRMC Marketing Director René Harwell said.
Aside from the cost-benefit analysis and maximizing storage space, Berens believes patients receive the most benefit.
"Really, I think the most important thing is that it (PACS) improves patient care."

Contact the writer at aparker@coastalcourier.com.
 

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