MRI center group streamlines with home-grown telerad system

March 16, 1994

Better work flow averts reading logjamsImaging centers are increasing their use of technology to enhanceoperating efficiency and trim costs. Shields Health Care Groupin Massachusetts has set up a teleradiology network that linksits six MR

Better work flow averts reading logjams

Imaging centers are increasing their use of technology to enhanceoperating efficiency and trim costs. Shields Health Care Groupin Massachusetts has set up a teleradiology network that linksits six MR imaging centers. The firm also interprets MR scansfrom McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA, via electronic transmission.

Shields operates freestanding MR facilities in Brockton, MA,where there are two machines, and in Dartmouth, Cambridge, Bostonand South Weymouth. Three of the five centers are joint ventureswith community hospitals. Shields has also applied for a certificate-of-needto establish a joint venture with Framingham Union Hospital.

Shields implemented teleradiology as a means of better distributingthe workload among the radiology staff, explained Jim R. Mattar,director of management information systems. The group's MR facilityin Dartmouth, MA, for example, runs seven days a week. On Mondaymornings, the radiologist was commonly beset by an avalanche ofcases to read.

"We installed teleradiology to relieve that logjam,"Mattar explained. "It allowed us to move the workload toother radiologists, and thereby not get behind. It also givesus a quicker turnaround on the interpretation."

Rather than purchasing commercial teleradiology equipment,Shields decided to build on its existing infrastructure. Fiveof their MR installations were equipped with GE scanners and GEAdvantage packages that included independent consoles.

The consoles were already connected to the Signa using a localarea network. Mattar converted this LAN into a wide area networkusing routers. The raw data could then be sent from site to siteover existing T1 phone lines.

The teleradiology network has paid for itself in just the yearit has been in operation, Mattar said. By redistributing the workload,Shields did not have to replace a neuroradiologist who left thegroup. The result has been a substantial savings in salary, hesaid.

Dr. Stephen T. Sweriduk Jr., medical director of Shields, saidthe teleradiology network has also changed the way he practicesradiology. One of the drawbacks of working in a freestanding MRcenter is that the radiologist is often isolated, he explained.If a problem arises, there is usually no one to consult with orto offer a second opinion.

"Teleradiology has changed all that. Now we can have virtuallyreal-time conversations with colleagues about ongoing cases. Ithas made the practice of radiology more interesting," Sweriduksaid.