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Technology saves hospital over 98 per cent on X-rays.

New diagnostic imaging technology has saved Timmins & District Regional Hospital 98.5 per cent of its costs in X-ray film. That is just one of a host of savings digital technology has created for the health-care provider.

Last year, the hospital's Radiology department spent only $6,000 on Computed Radiography (CR-digital X-ray image) cassettes instead of $400,000 on X-ray film.

In 2002, the Picture Archive and Communications System (PACS) was introduced to the Timmins' hospital. Now, the system saves on patient transportation costs while connecting remote Northern communities to a full range of medical expertise.

PACS offers CR, MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging), digital mammograms, echocardiography and a slew of other services delivered at a distance through high-speed broadband Internet.

The $9.8-million government funded project, known as NORrad (Northern Radiology), was first introduced at the Timmins & District Regional Hospital and implemented by a team of medical technology specialists.


PACS administrator for NORrad Mike Gasparotto says one CR cassette with the digital plate inside is good for 20,000 exposures at a cost of about $2,000. However, X-ray film costs $2 per sheet of film, so 20,000 exposures would run the hospital around $40,000.

He says depending on the CR system, the images can be better quality than what was previously used.

For Gasparotto, it is about accessing physicians in remote Northern communities that might not have them. If a person who lives in a remote area receives an injury, they are sent to a hospital where a digital image is taken. The file is delivered electronically to the Timmins hospital, where surgeons are able to look at the image and determine whether or not the injury requires further attention.

"The bottom line is that we will improve our capacity to provide good quality patient care in the digital X-ray world," Gasparotto says. "It will also make it much simpler for the physicians to look at these archived pictures and discuss them with the radiologist."

He adds the newer technology not only provides incentive for physicians to come North, it addresses physician and radiologist shortages, and availability of local emergency services.

Peter Fibricius, CEO of James Bay Hospital, operates three sites-Moosonee, Fort Albany and Attawapiskat, servicing 11,000 residents.

"It will be a tremendous boost because it will save people having to leave the community, and travel great distances at great expense, for simple things that can be taken care of right in the community," he says.

All three sites have functioning PACS, but only Moosonee and Moose Factory Island have access to high-speed broadband. Fibre optic cables will be installed over the next two years in Fort Albany and Attawapiskat. Meanwhile, CD images are sent to radiology at Weeneebayko General Hospital on Moose Factory Island.

Twelve hospitals are involved in this partnership, under the umbrella of the Northeastern Health Services Alliance, and more are coming on-stream. Timmins is the regional hub for the network.

NORrad manager Guy Guindon says hospitals in Wawa, Chapleau, Hornepayne and Temiskaming Shores, as well as Sudbury's North Eastern Regional Cancer Centre are now on-board.

As the diagnostic imaging technology continues to improve, NORrad's ultimate goal is to have all of Northern Ontario connected under PACS.

With regional hubs in Timmins and Sudbury, the network is now linked to a number of outlying communities such as Blind River, Little Current, Mindemoya and Espanola.

In the near future, they plan to connect to Sault Ste. Marie's Group Health Centre and to a site in North Bay.

Guindon says they are working with Canada Health Infoway on a bigger system called Pan Northern Ontario PACS project, which will embrace northwestern Ontario.


Northern Ontario Business
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Author:Larmour, Adelle
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Feb 1, 2006
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