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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Rock goes digital

The Rock is going digital.

No, not that Rock (actor Dwayne Johnson, left, who is known mostly for his preening professional wrestling character).

Today's news, rather, concerns The Rock better known to Canadians as Newfoundland & Labrador.

The provincial government it has reached a rate of 95% of diagnostic images available digitally through a province-wide computerized diagnostic imaging system.

Plans for the province's Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS) were announced last year. The system cost about $23 million, split by the province's Ministry of Health and the federal agency Canada Health Infoway. The system, according to today's press release, "allows diagnostic images such as X-rays, MRI, ultrasounds and CT scans to be captured, transmitted and stored digitally, and made available to clinicians regardless of where they are located or where the test was conducted."

The press release quotes Canada Health Infoway president Richard Alvarez:

"Achieving such widespread use of electronic digital imaging throughout Newfoundland and Labrador is an incredible achievement benefiting clinicians and especially their patients. Today's announcement means patients from remote areas can benefit from the advice of specialists located far away without the usual delays geography create. This is about increasing access, uncovering efficiencies, and improving access to quality care - regardless of where patiens live."
The Newfoundland release identifies the province as the second in Canada to adopt a province-wide PACS, but it inexplicably fails to mention which province was first: Prince Edward Island.

A couple of years ago, PEI officials were :
"We said, Maybe we can put together a province-wide project'," [Herman McQuaid, director of health informatics for the Department of Health and Social Services of Prince Edward Island] recalls. "The other Atlantic provinces had received some funding, too, but they were not able to complete the agenda."
It seems Newfoundland was up to the challenge, after all -- and PEI will have to stop boasting about its unique success in implementing a digital imaging system.

One aspect of the news that went without mention in today's Newfoundland announcement was the recent turmoil in the province's Eastern Health authority after several high-profile radiological imaging scandals were exposed over the course of the last year. ( about those in NRM's June 15 issue.) In PEI's case, part of the impetus behind the PACS initiative a few years back was to try to retain radiologists in the province and perhaps to attract new ones there. Those are ideas that likely seem very attractive to Newfoundland's health human resources department these days, given the problems the province has experienced in the field lately.

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