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For one critical access hospital, process makes perfect

July 18, 2011
From the July 2011 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
by Coleen Goulet

Facing shrinking resources and increasing competition, hospitals considering process or equipment changes need to evaluate their options, to ensure they bring both clinical and financial benefits.

It’s what we did at Sunnyside Community Hospital, a 25-bed critical access hospital in central Washington State, where I manage the breast imaging center. In early 2010, the center considered transitioning from film to digital. To make sure it worked, administration and clinicians first identified four primary areas that needed to be addressed when getting the new equipment: image quality and productivity; training on the new systems; redesigning the reading room; and promoting new technology in our rural Washington community.
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Image quality & productivity improvements
Digital won here on two counts. In side-by-side comparisons of film and digital images, the image quality of digital studies has proven to be even better than film. It’s like night and day.

Productivity has also improved with the transition to digital. Exam time for the technologist and patient has been cut in half. Images are now available for approval within seconds compared to waiting for films to run through the wet chemical processor. Eliminating the task of hanging films has also streamlined workflow processes.

Ergonomically, radiologists appreciate the zoom functionality --- no more hand held magnifying glasses.

Training for radiologists
Radiologists at Sunnyside read, on average, 2,500 mammogram studies per year. With a busy community practice, the Breast Imaging Center could not afford to have any downtime to accommodate installation and then training. Training with the radiologists would need to take place well in advance of the installation of the system.

To ensure there was no interruption, Sunnyside received the radiologist training package prior to installation, giving doctors ample time to complete and become proficient with the new system prior to going live.

Once the radiologists were trained in digital mammography, they received training for the NovaMG reading station. This part of the training took only a few hours. By the afternoon of the go-live date, radiologists were reading from the workstation.

Redesigning the reading room
Retrofitting a room can cause interruptions. Working closely with Sunnyside’s maintenance department minimized disruption during the transition. The redesign entailed removing some of the view boxes in the existing reading room and redesigning the area to accommodate the new viewing stations.

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