Better digital images
A new internet upgrade for the Buena Vista Regional Medical Center radiology department will allow the unit to send and receive better and more thorough digital images of scans of patients, helping to make diagnosis more effective in a shorter amount of time.
The new $31,540 upgrade to hardware and software capabilities of the radiology unit will also make its system capable of interfacing with the one offered by Radiology Consultants of Iowa, a Cedar Rapids-based radiology department that will give the BVRMC unit a backup center to send images to when its own radiologist is unavailable to study images.
BVRMC currently sends digital images such as CAT scans to Dr. Maurice Huffman of Storm Lake at home via phone line during after-hours and weekends, a 30-minute process which includes scanning and sending images to Huffman, allowing the doctor to make a diagnosis and then receiving the images and analysis back from Huffman over the phone line system.
Now, when the new upgrade from Entron of St. Louis is implemented in late July, doctors will be able to send scans to Huffman or Cedar Rapids in two to three minutes, dramatically shaving time off of the process.
In addition, the internet digital scans will allow the radiologist interpreting the images to view them from several different vantage points, an improvement from the phone system, which only allowed static, unchanging images to be sent. The radiologist reading scans will now be able to look at the images from a variety of angles and sizes, helping the doctor make a more accurate diagnosis.
The Storm Lake hospital will be the first in the area to use internet capabilities for its tele-radiology program, and Joan Kurtz, the head of the radiology department at BVRMC, said the new upgrade will be valuable to the medical center in several ways.
"It's so much quicker and it allows the other end to postprocess the images, which will allow them to interact with the images," Kurtz said. "It will make life a lot easier for the radiologist to be able to interact with these images."
"It's going to help us quite a bit," Merlin Hutchinson, a CT technologist with BVRMC since February, said. "The technology that we will be able to have will be much faster, and it's going to be very dependable as well. We're all looking forward to it."
The three-year old BVRMC tele-radiology program began researching the possibility of the new system last year, when its arrangement with a backup radiologist ended when that doctor moved out of the area. The departure left BVRMC without a backup reader to send scans to when Huffman was out of town, forcing the hospital to transfer patients to places such as Sioux City which could offer interpretations of the images.
After asking different hospitals across the state if they could help provide backup service to BVRMC, hospital officials finally found a willing partner in the Cedar Rapids center in November, and received a proposal in April.
Kurtz said the shortage of radiologists across the state made the search extremely tough, as hospitals in Des Moines, Sioux City, Iowa City and other metropolitan areas would not take on the BVRMC requests because their own units were understaffed.
"Cedar Rapids was the only group that really listened to us," Kurtz said. "They are a very stable company, which made them appealing to us, and they're going to help us a lot by providing that backup."
Entron will begin installing the new hardware and software next month, and will likely have the new technology in place in two to three weeks.
"We're excited," Kurtz said. "With our regional status this is something that we feel is important, and it will be a helpful service in the future."