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Technology helping to speed up treatment at Pa. hospitals

March 06, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Dr. Rose M. Dagen wasn't in the emergency room when the man suffering from a heart attack entered Waynesboro Hospital.

But she had 30 minutes to review his electrocardiogram and determine whether to administer life-saving clot busters.

Thanks to new technology, Dagen didn't have to rush to the emergency room and no one had to hurriedly provide her with a printout of the man's EKG.

All it took was a few clicks on a keyboard in her office and Dagen was reviewing the information she needed in mere moments - moments that she said can make all the difference.

"It really requires rapid decision making," Dagen said. "There's a time frame you have to meet to use catheterization in treatment of acute heart attacks."

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Two computer programs costing more than $11 million at Summit Health, which includes Waynesboro and Chambersburg, Pa., hospitals, are changing how doctors view patients' diagnostic images and medical histories.

Dagen used MUSE software from General Electric to access the patient's EKG, which was obtained from a wireless cart. The EKG is archived into the patient's electronic medical record - or computerized medical history.

"It pulled up the old tracing and the new one for me to compare," said Dagen, a cardiologist.

As Dagen was demonstrating the software last week, a colleague downstairs was comparing two sets of data himself.

Dr. Niteen Sukerkar, a radiologist, had current images of a patient's problem area on one screen and past images on a second, which allowed him to pinpoint changes in the patient's condition. He used a trigger device to flip through hundreds of the patient's images stored in the picture archiving communication system (PACS).

"It's so easy," he said.

A third physician, Dr. Robert Pyatt, called the radiology department while Sukerkar was filing a report based on the PACS images. Pyatt had been looking at a Waynesboro patient's images on a Chambersburg Hospital computer screen when he called.

"It's awesome technology. It speeds up the whole ability to diagnose," Pyatt said.

Waynesboro Hospital first launched the MUSE software last October. Chambersburg Hospital followed shortly thereafter.

The PACS system has been in place at Waynesboro Hospital for six weeks. Chambersburg Hospital is scheduled to fully implement it March 27.

More than 10,000 EKGs have been completed at the hospitals using the MUSE software. The price tag for Summit Health was about $450,000, according to Michele Zeigler, vice president of information services.

The PACS cost $11 million, she said.

"It's not a cheap endeavor, Zeigler said.

She said patients won't notice a difference during their EKG or diagnostic imaging procedures, but doctors now "can access this information on any of the workstations Summit-wide." Also, they won't spend time finding a specific film out of the hundreds that can result from an X-ray, CT scan or ultrasound.

"We've gone filmless with everything except mammograms. And we've gone paperless," Zeigler said.

"Now you can actually type in a report and have it pop up with the medical record," said Pyatt, who added that a patient can have images saved on a compact disc if desired.

The doctors also have rotation and zooming options with the images, and they have 3-D capabilities with ultrasounds.

Pyatt, a clinical professor of radiology at George Washington Medical School, feels PACS will help Summit Health recruit new doctors who have trained on the program. He said 30 percent of hospitals in the United States have implemented PACS, and the majority are teaching ones unlike Waynesboro Hospital.

Pyatt also said the radiologists are able to easily share the images with each other and benefit from the other doctors' specialties.

"It allows us to share talent within the group," he said.

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