Covenant’s Radiology Goes Digital

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

By the end of October, St. Francis Hospital, 3237 S. 16th St., Milwaukee, will be the second of Covenant Healthcare’s hospitals to switch to a new picture archival and communications system (PACS).

The PACS will make Covenant’s radiology system digital, meaning that it will use almost

no film. All new X-rays will be produced digitally. CT scans and MRIs are already digital images, and the new system will allow them to be shared alongside X-rays.

Covenant officials say the system will make their hospitals more competitive in the marketplace and more efficient.

By switching to a completely digital system, images can be accessed faster than previously because film does not need to be developed. The new system will also enable physicians and other health care workers to view images at the same time from multiple locations.

"By converging everything into an electronic system, we will expedite the process (of taking images)," said Roger Rhodes, regional vice president of imaging services with Covenant. "The same image can be viewed in multiple places at the same time, and it will eliminate lost film. The most important reasons are accuracy and efficiency."

Covenant’s St. Michael Hospital has already been fitted with the PACS system. Once work is complete at St. Francis Hospital, workers will install the system at Covenant’s Elmbrook Memorial Hospital and later at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center.

Several other health care systems in metro Milwaukee have also installed PACS systems, including ProHealth Care and the Froedtert Hospital, Medical College of Wisconsin and Community Health system. The Columbia St. Mary’s system started installing the system this month, and expects to have it in place system wide by October, 2006.

All of St. Francis Hospital’s departments have completed their conversion, other than the surgical department, which will be done by the end of the month.

The new system will help make X-ray tech’s jobs easier, said Eve Stahl, St. Francis Hospital PACS administrator.

"It will help them get (images) quicker and get them to the doctor faster for interpretation," she said. "It expedites the process for (techs). They’ll know faster if they need to redo them. And that, ultimately, improves patient care."

X-rays will be taken with the same machines the hospital currently has, Rhodes said. Instead of a film negative, the images will be shot onto a digital cassette. The cassette will allow X-ray techs to upload images directly into the hospital’s computer system, where doctors and other health care workers can see them.

"It’s quicker and it reduces the vulnerability through development," Rhodes said.

MRI and CT scans already produce digital images. Those images also will be stored in the new PACS system.

"We don’t want to lose a single sheet of film," he said. "Now we can archive it and it will be there forever."

Rhodes and other Covenant officials declined to disclose the costs of the new system. However, he said the system will save about $750,000 per year in film developing costs.

The PACS system will also allow for remote viewing, which will enable doctors to sign onto the system with a password at home and view images of patients if a need arises. It will also allow emergency room doctors to consult with specialists when needed, Rhodes said. "This could be expediting care in many cases," he said.

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