|Diagnostic Imaging Services (DIS), New Orleans|
Diagnostic Imaging Services (DIS) is a five-site freestanding imaging practice located in the greater New Orleans area. Unfortunately, the practice experienced disaster first-hand when Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005. The storm devastated the region and greatly effected the practice, its patients and staff; however, the ASP model demonstrated its merit as every electronic image archived in long-term storage remained secure and available. The decision to implement ASP proved its value as it allowed DIS to ensure continuity of care for its patients when so much in the region was in such disarray.
DIS’ full service imaging portfolio includes digital mammography, MRI, CT, DEXA, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, digital radiography and fluoroscopy and collectively the five sites complete 115,000 to 120,000 studies annually. To manage that image load, the practice deployed GE Healthcare Centricity PACS in 2003 and opted too for ASP for long-term, off-site image archiving.
ASP presents an attractive arrangement from the upfront cost perspective, says CEO Anthony Gettys, who was CFO at the time the PACS/ASP solution was purchased. There is no upfront cost for ASP as long-term storage is funded through the operating budget, and the group pays only for the storage it uses. But the true benefit of ASP, particularly for DIS, is disaster recovery. The DIS experience demonstrates the safety, continuity and reliability of GE’s ASP offering.
“Disaster recovery is something we always planned for, but we never expected to have to use it. Hurricane Katrina proved the importance of ASP,” says Keith Robichaux, PACS administrator.
The DIS disaster recovery plan is elegantly simple. After images are acquired at any of the practice’s imaging centers, files are immediately saved in the long-term archives at two offsite data warehouses. That model facilitated a fairly straightforward disaster plan. In August 2005, once the practice realized that Hurricane Katrina would hit the area, the plan went into action.
In the days preceding Katrina, all imaging modalities performed according to regular protocols and sent data to PACS. After the last exam was acquired and the facility was closing to brace for the storm, Robichaux contacted GE, and the company helped the facility shut down the PACS—making sure all of the images had been safety sent to the offsite storage sites in Chicago and California. Robichaux, like other staff, left the area, taking the short-term backup data tape with him. “We were very confident of our offsite GE storage. The combination of the archives and a few backup tapes meant patient data would be secure,” explains Kathy Rabalais, director of clinical services & IT.
Three weeks passed before any staff was allowed to return to the area and the Imaging Centers. The hitch, as anyone in the healthcare business knows, is that patient care doesn’t wait.
Patients who had scattered to every corner of the U.S. needed access to their images. Even though the center was not sure of its future as an imaging facility, it needed to attend to previous patients. Robichaux and a colleague set up a PACS CD burning station on the second floor of the Metairie, La., facility—since the first floor had some water damage—and arranged for release of information and e-signing capabilities for radiologists. DIS established a central phone line to inform its 3,500 referring physicians of its status. “With proper credentials, our referring physicians could get the data they needed to maintain patient care. They were extremely grateful because many had patients left in limbo when Katrina hit. Oncology patients were able to get three years’ worth of CT or MRI data if they needed it, no matter where they were,” recalls Rabalais.
Centricity Web Portal also played a significant role in the continuity of care. Although the DIS imaging centers themselves were not open for business, referring physicians could access images and reports online. The CD burning station served physicians without web access.
The other at-risk patient population consisted of patients whose exams were acquired but not read in the days preceding the hurricane. DIS set up a second floor PACS reading station; a radiologist accessed those files on the archive to ensure that those studies were read and a report created.
Because of its ASP-enabled solid disaster recovery plan, DIS was able to provide patients with service after Katrina. The business