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Hospitals make room for healthcare

By installing a digital radiology solution, Ste. Genevieve Hospital was able to give physicians immediate access to x-rays, boost staff productivity and free up space in an overcrowded x-ray storage room.

X-rays the old-fashioned way will soon be a thing of the past if St. Louis-based Quick Study Radiology has its way. That old fashioned way meant printing expensive film, slipping the film into a jacket and physically moving the film to the physician for diagnosis. As if that process didn't cost enough time and money, the film then had to be stored, sometimes as long as 21 years.

Today, Ste. Genevieve Hospital's radiology department can create an image, such as an x-ray, CAT scan, or MRI and have that image instantly available to a physician via computer. Working with QSR, the hospital, based in the Missouri city of the same name, set up an online storage system that eliminated an inconveniently-placed x-ray file room.

In its work as a radiology department records management and billing company, QSR recognized a Catch-22 situation in the old versus new x-ray storage area. A high-end digital imaging and storage solution is beyond the budgets of small to mid-sized hospitals and clinics. At the same time, the storage and labor-intensive distribution of standard x-rays are budget-breakers for these smaller institutions.

The length of time varies from state to state, but generally a hospital must store an image for seven years for adults

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and up to 21 years for an infant. In the old-fashioned way, hospitals had to have huge warehouses where all the x-rays were stored.

QSR determined that a digital radiology solution would free the hospital space for healthcare instead of health document storage. "There are a lot of compelling reasons to go with a digital radiology solution in terms of workflow, being more efficient and providing better care in the hospital," said Brian Neal, vice president of marketing and business development for Quick Study Radiology.

At Ste. Genevieve's, for example, a large x-ray storage room was set up next to the radiology department, located near the emergency room. Unfortunately, there was no room left for the radiology group?s large CAT scanning device. "The CAT scanner was set up in a room across the hospital, so we had to transport patients a long way," said Tammy Meyer, the hospital?s director of radiology. "We logged a lot of travel time."

By eliminating the need to store x-ray film, Ste. Genevieve's was able to move its vital CAT scan equipment to the freed space of the file room. "This boosted productivity tremendously," Meyer said.

QSR designed a Storage Area Network that inputs every image, in a digital format, into a Picture Archive and Communications system, or PAC. PAC allows the referring physician to access the image, with his/her password, on any computer monitor. The PAC has a range of tools that allow the physician to zoom, magnify and arrange the picture to better assist in interpreting the image.

After evaluating several vendors' SAN systems, QSR chose the Magnitude SAN system from Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based XIOtech, a division of Seagate Technologies. "We found the XIOtech SAN to have greater cross-platform capabilities than SANs from Hitachi, IBM or EMC," said Neal. Several products evaluated were based on proprietary technologies. The XIOtech SAN offered standard hardware configurations and standard ways of interfacing with other devices so it's not proprietary. "This freed us from being tied to one vendor for all the different pieces and parts of the solution," said Neal. Also, QSR itself runs several operating systems, as do its clients. "With the XIOtech system, you can have different operating systems with different applications working seamlessly together," he said.

The flexibility of the Magnitude system was a plus. QSR has 1.75 terabytes of available storage space on 16 drives. The storage virtualization technologies used in Magnitude enable QSR to allocate that space dynamically in seconds, on the fly. "With other solutions, one drive had to be dedicated to one application or client, which is an inefficient way to use our space," said Neal.

Storage virtualization also makes it easy to grow capacity or perform maintenance and upgrade tasks without shutting servers down. In doing research, "I found that upgrading with most other companies' products required turning a device off," Neal said. That wouldn't do, he knew, because any down time is unacceptable in healthcare, where 24X7 records availability could be a life-or-death matter. "We need to make changes on the fly without having to worry about taking systems down," said Neal.

Ste. Genevieve's and other QSR's client hospitals are connected by a T1 line provided by a major telecom carrier. The private network and T1 line provide the speed and reliability that healthcare workers need. "A chest x-ray is 25 megs," said Neal. "If it's lunch time, with everybody surfing the Internet, and you're trying to move your x-rays via a slow connection, you're going to have problems."

QSR's system is being used by several departments in the hospital, ranging from oncology to orthopedics, according to Meyer. "Doctors can access images more quickly than before and make a more thorough analysis of the images with a digital system," said Meyer. "This gives them more time to spend with patients, which is what healthcare should be about."

For additional information about Quick Study Radiology, visit its Web site.

For more information about Ste. Genevieve Hospital, visit its Web site.

For additional information on XIOtech, click here.


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This was first published in January 2002

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