Teleradiology Services Being Offered to Rural Hospitals
During the last few months, the MRTC and the radiology department at Mercy Hospital Medical Center, Des Moines, have been working to implement teleradiology systems at Ringgold County Hospital, Mount Ayr and Wayne County Hospital in Corydon.
The goal is to offer expanded radiology coverage when on-site readings are unavailable. The new teleradiology system also provides definitive interpretations (meets American College of Radiology standards for diagnostic interpretations), and emergency evaluation assistance from afar. Presently, reading services at both Wayne County and Ringgold County Hospitals are provided three half days per week at each site by Craig Northcutt, M.D., a radiologist from Mercy Hosptial.
Sue Kyner, a radiology technician at Wayne County, said, "Teleradiology worked the way it was designed in early December." Kyner went on to describe a case were an 80 year old male was admitted into the emergency room at 7:00 p.m. with a possible hip fracture. Staff at Wayne County Hosptial contacted the radiology department at Mercy and sent the images digitally. Within 20 minutes of receiving the films via teleradiology the injury was diagnosed to be an undisplaced hip fracture and a second fracture was detected by the on-call radiologist at Mercy. The patient was stablized and transferred to Mercy for treatment the following day.
Traditionally, if remote hospitals require these specialized services during weeknights or weekends and a radiologist is not avaialble, a courier service is used to transport the films to a tertiary hospital where they are read. A diagnosis is dictated and a report is faxed back to the rural hospital the following day. If the patient's case is too serious; both the films and patient are transported, in most cases, as an emergency transfer for care.
"The transmission of a typical chest film is seven minutes, which means faster interpretations, immediate stablization of the patient, and possible transfer avoidance", explains, Ken Hatch, MRTC staff member. "Our teleradiolgy system has been designed to function using 1/4 of bandwidth provided to the hospital's Integrated Switched Digital Network - Primary Rate Interface circuit." The remainder of the bandwidth is utilized for telemedicine consultations, continuing medical education programs and administrative meetings. Converging these services maximizes the T-1 capability and allows the hospitals to conduct two separate services simultaneously. Other hospitals interested in the teleradiology application are St. Anthony Regional Hospital in Carroll and Hamilton County Public Hospital in Webster City.
Presently, the MRTC is utilizing two different types of teleradiology systems which have specific functionality requirements for providing health care: (1) as mentioned above, to provide definitive diagnostic interpretations by Mercy Hospital Medical Center, and (2) provide preliminary, supplemental viewing, usually followed by a final diagnosis by hard copy (films) by North Iowa Mercy Health Center. The next issue of the newsletter will feature information about the teleradiology system being used at North Iowa Mercy and its affiliate hospitals.