Inside the State-of-the-Art Community Hospital

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 Grenada Lake Medical Center in Grenada, Miss., is located midway between Jackson, Miss., and Memphis, Tenn., and serves both states’ populations. The 156-bed, acute-care hospital exemplifies community commitment and aims to provide patient care equal or superior to that available in larger sites and urban locales. The medical center provides a full range of services including radiology, oncology, orthopedics, and family medicine to the 23,000 residents of Grenada County and those residing in seven surrounding counties.

Grenada Lake Medical Center manages to achieve the extraordinary. The hospital combines its commitment to patient care with both state-of-the-art technology and fiscal responsibility. “Grenada Lake is a community-owned hospital. We operate in the black even though we are not subsidized by the county. Plus, the hospital manages to remain up to date with the latest healthcare technologies,” explains Murray Dozier, director of radiology.

The latest evidence of that commitment is a new PACS, a facility first. The digital image management solution, GE Healthcare’s Centricity PACS SE, enables caregivers to provide state-of-the-art patient care. But the benefits of PACS extend beyond clinical excellence to increased efficiency and improved workflow. At the same time, the PACS provides a firm foundation for upcoming advanced technology implementations including 64-slice CT.

The right place and right time

Grenada Lake deployed Centricity PACS SE in August 2006, but the roots of the project are several years old. In fact, the hospital’s chief financial officer had placed the PACS project on hold three years ago, says Dozier. The hospital had evaluated mini-PACS to determine if a scaled-down model might meet the needs of a their hospital. The answer was no.

Two related factors led to the decision to postpone PACS, says Dozier. “We realized that generation of PACS technology might not meet the medical center’s future needs,” notes Dozier. Grenada Lake prides itself on investments in advanced technology. “The local competition relies on basic imaging technology. The hospital invests in advanced technology, allowing it to maintain a competitive edge,” states Dozier. One planned future investment that requires a robust PACS as a prerequisite is 64-slice CT. “A mini-PACS probably could not accommodate a 64-slice CT scanner,” notes Dozier.

The hospital’s clear vision for future imaging deployments translated into a second reason for delaying the PACS investment; if a mini-PACS reached premature obsolescence, it could prevent the hospital from realizing the full benefits of its investment. Given the potential negative financial implications associated with a mini-PACS, the medical center decided to wait. “We chose not to forget about PACS, but to wait for a full-fledged solution that could meet both current and future needs,” states Dozier.

Efficiency realized

By 2006, PACS technology had reached the point where Grenada Lake was comfortable making the investment, since system features and functionalities were robust and issues such as integration within the department and across the enterprise had been addressed. Also, Grenada felt the system was scaled to the needs — and budget — of a small community hospital. The Grenada Lake PACS team completed many site visits and evaluated various vendors. “From the PACS administration perspective, the degree of user-friendliness was very important,” explains Cristy Seibel, PACS and RIS administrator.

Seibel felt Centricity PACS SE provided a high degree of user-friendliness, which could lead to simplified training programs and, in turn, facilitate widespread adoption among physicians. As an added plus, Centricity complemented the hospital’s RIS with a similar training program. Two final factors put the system over the top in the selection process. The first is longevity. “We knew GE would not be bought out in two years, they had staying power as a vendor,” explains Seibel. In addition, the company employs a healthy network of field engineers, including one located a mere 30 minutes from the medical center. That was a big selling point in the rural south. If a problem arises, the hospital won’t need to wait a day or longer for someone to fly here, says Seibel.

As further evidence that the time for PACS has arrived, the implementation at Grenada Lake produced fairly rapid results. The hospital installed PACS in August, and by October the radiologist reported a 50 percent