January 2009

PACS Implementation Results in Cost Reductions, Quality Gains


CHI Medical Imaging Services’ implementation of PACS (picture archiving and communication system) technology for medical imaging is on track to save the system more than $5.5 million by the end of FY09 while enhancing the quality of patient care. The multi-year implementation, which began during FY06, has already reduced maintenance fees, software licensing fees and storage costs for CHI and 28 MBOs now using PACS. PACS also enables a higher quality of care at those locations, including Franciscan Health System, Tacoma, WA. “With PACS, it’s possible for nurses and physicians to make quicker decisions about patient care,” said Gary Marshall, director of regional diagnostic imaging services for Franciscan Health System. “The emergency department (ED) is a good example. Before PACS, when we took images of an emergency department patient, the ED physician would look at the films on a multiviewer, make a preliminary report, then wait for a radiologist to do a final read of the images. Now, the images go directly into PACS, where radiologists have immediate access to them, and a radiology report is usually ready by the time the ED physician finishes assessing the patient.” While helping deliver quality care, CHI’s PACS implementation has reduced film usage by more than 90%, exceeding the goal of an 80% reduction. Since 2004, the elimination and reduction of film use has resulted in annual systemwide savings of $5.9 million. Radiologist use of the PowerScribe digital dictation system has also reduced transcription time and costs. PACS also allows patients to benefit from the expertise of radiology specialists, even from a distance. “A radiologist can look at images anywhere there’s a computer attached to our network,” said Marshall. “If an MRI is taken in one location, a specialist in another location can interpret it right away or provide a second opinion.” That aspect of PACS is particularly helpful in rural markets with few radiologists, said Win Vaughan, vice president of medical imaging services for CHI. “In addition, PACS allows radiologists to scroll through a large number of images in just seconds,” he said. “That’s something you can’t do with films on a multiviewer.” During FY09, PACS will be implemented at Saint Joseph-Jessamine, Nicholasville, KY; Good Samaritan Health Systems, Kearney, NE; St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Center, Dickinson, ND; and St. Anthony Hospital, Gig Harbor, WA. The PowerScribe system will be installed at St. Joseph Medical Center, Towson, MD; Holy Rosary Medical Center, Ontario, OR; and Franciscan Health System, Tacoma, WA. “With the great support and training provided by CHI, it took just three weeks for the radiologists who work with Franciscan Health System to be trained and to feel comfortable with PACS,” said Marshall. “We’re happy to share our learnings and experiences with other CHI locations.” PACS is part of CHI’s overall Medical Imaging System Program. Given the economic environment, CHI is now reviewing the schedule for implementing PACS in more locations during FY10. For more information, contact Win Vaughan at winvaughan@catholichealth.net.