Kodak hosts Digital Symposium in San Diego

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Addressing the industry's transition to digital imaging and information management, Eastman Kodak Co.'s Health Imaging Group this week hosted its first "Digital Transformation: A Symposium for Radiology and the Healthcare Enterprise" at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, Calif., Oct. 11 - 13.

The three day meeting featured an expert panel of radiologists, physicists and IT professionals. Topics included PACS, digital storage and archive technologies, IHE (integrating the healthcare enterprise), compression, voice recognition, financing options, HIPAA, computed radiography (CR) versus digital radiography (DR), reading room design and digital mammography.

According to Daniel Kerpelmen, president of Kodak's Health Imaging division and Senior VP of Kodak, healthcare today is doing more with fewer resources. "Digital penetration is happening and reducing analog imaging," Kerpelmen stated during the conference's opening speech. "CR and DR are increasing faster than x-ray is declining. In 2005, digital imaging procedures will precede analog processes."

The Baltimore VA Medical Center has been using PACS for more than 11 years. The radiology department is completely filmless except for mammography. Radiologists complete reports using digital dictation software, but according to Eliot Siegel, MD, chief of imaging services at the hospital, as well as chair of the symposium's steering committee, the hospital will eventually transition to speech recognition software in order to significantly improve turn around time.

Workflow and how it changes with the implementation of digital technologies, was a major focus of the conference. "Improving productivity depends on how well you use your PACS to reinvent workflow," said Siegel in his speech, "Lessons learned in Digital Imaging at the Baltimore VA". "It's a mistake to mirror the same workflow as analog processes once PACS is installed."

Once workflow challenges and others are addressed, hospitals should expect to experience increases in both productivity and report turn around time. With PACS, Siegel explained that CT studies are read 15 percent faster and musculoskeletal and portable ICU CR images are read approximately 8 percent faster at the Baltimore VA. Radiologists productivity has increased 50 percent overall, Siegel said. In addition, report turn around time has gone from 12 to 24 hours for non-stat examinations to 20 minutes.

However, PACS will not initially save you money and a hospital should not expect to go filmless within a year, said David Waldman, MD, PhD, professor and chairman in department of radiology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Waldman addressed listeners in "Bridging Your Digital Transition" the second day of the conference.

But PACS will improve patient care, allow healthcare providers to effectively compete in the marketplace, increase productivity and better serve referring physicians, explained Waldman.

In addition to getting radiologists on board with the new digital imaging technology, the symposium focused on additional figures in the healthcare enterprise that must be an active participant in the program, such as the CIO and CFO, administrative and department leaders, hospital staff as well as IT. The roadmap to digital transformation requires extensive evaluation, training and planning, especially for "worst case" scenarios.

Rick Perez, RT, CRA, administrative director of radiology at Winthrop University Medical Center, spoke about managing the digital department. "New concerns arise with digital systems," he said. "Workflow processes not followed create errors in the system that must be managed as part of the daily business. Does the process changed have the potential to create patient safety issues because of this process failure? Also consider archive repairs and redundancies, network and power needs as well as A/C and ventilation."

Perez added that "policies and procedures need to be in place to handle a disaster so that you can continue to operate. Depending on how long you are down, you will need to determine how you will get all the information back into the system. This can take two to three times the amount of time you were down to recover. You will need to register patients, merge data while you are trying to catch up and continue to provide patient care."