The NORrad PACS Project
Radiology is a core element of delivering effective medical care to a large number of patients in a modern health care system. Patients are referred to radiologists by family physicians and other medical specialists to diagnose a suspected condition using a variety of diagnostic imaging modalities such as x-ray, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, Computed Tomography (CT), and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Radiology is the most dynamic area of medicine because of the rapid changes caused by new technologies. These advances have permitted diagnostic imaging modalities to create digital images that can be transmitted across a Wide Area Network (WAN) and the World Wide Web without any degradation to the image quality. This is essential to radiology since this medical specialty is dependent on the highest resolution possible. Any image distortion could result in a misdiagnosis.
Until recently, x-ray was predominantly an analogue-acquired image that had to be digitized on a special scanner if it needed to be transmitted remotely. There have been many ongoing concerns about the loss of important diagnostic information in both the scanning and digitizing steps of this analogue x-ray image. Each x-ray image contains a substantial amount of data. For example, a chest x-ray contains 20 MB of information. A loss of information on a digitized analogue x-ray can have a direct and negative impact on the diagnosis and the resulting treatment plan.
Breakthrough innovations have contributed to the development of a digital x-ray device in the past five years that have revolutionized x-ray imaging. This is the most important new development since x-rays were discovered 107 years ago. Approximately 70 -100% of the average rural hospital’s workload is “plain film” x-ray imaging which requires large expenditures on radiology film, chemistry and staff. Now digital x-rays can be transmitted digitally from one location to another without any loss of information, without digitizing and without film. Additionally, there are several productivity benefits, reduced operating costs, and vastly improved patient care advantages associated with the adoption of digital x-ray technology.
NORrad’s Integrated Health Care Vision
NORrad’s vision is to employ proven health care and communications technology as an enabling factor to support physicians and other health care professionals to provide high quality care locally to the patients in north eastern Ontario in a manner that is consistent with the delivery of care elsewhere in the province. NORrad, or NORthern radiology, reflects the intent to:
Develop long term solutions integrating many proven facets of telecommunications and digital diagnostic imaging technology
Work collaboratively with other regional Networks to develop systems and capabilities not currently available such as the creation of a Electronic Patient Record and a Master Patient Index
Provide specialist care to patients and service to primary care physicians living in north eastern Ontario communities in a quick and efficient manner while minimizing the need for patients to travel for basic diagnostic examinations
Remove natural and fiscal obstacles to provide care in a manner consistent with the standard of medicine in more urban areas of Ontario
Optimize scarce medical, health care professional and technical human resources
Provide leading edge diagnostic care to people living and working in a resource economy spread across several small communities and separated by vast distances
Ensure that key regional health care resources such as the cancer centre or the cardiac care program are more readily accessible to citizens living in any community in north eastern Ontario
To facilitate the ability of the new Northern Ontario Medical School to reach out in a meaningful way into each of the surrounding networks and to facilitate the education of medical students and other health care professionals to use modern technologies necessary for the delivery of health care services in northern and remote communities
Collaborate with other key partners such as North Network to ensure the integration of other health care technologies to facilitate ease of access
Involvement with Smart Systems for Health to use broadband communication links for the deployment of NORrad in the Networks and to create the necessary critical mass for the addition of other health care programs using this communications link
The Genesis of NORrad - Why PACS? Why Radiology?
Integrating health care and telecommunications technology provides a tangible means to more efficiently respond to the:
Critical Success Factors