Orthopedic group takes digital lead in central New York

October 10, 2005

One of the first orthopedic operations to go digital in central New York state is using soft-copy imaging to surge ahead of the pack.

One of the first orthopedic operations to go digital in central New York state is using soft-copy imaging to surge ahead of the pack.

When Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists opened a new headquarters in 2002, the 24-surgeon group took the big bang approach to digital imaging. It purchased a PACS, converted its x-ray unit to computed radiography, and installed three direct radiography and two MRI units.

The practice serves approximately 3000 patients per week and performs about 90 imaging studies per day, with offices in Syracuse, Camillus, Cicero, Liverpool, Fayetteville, and East Syracuse.

"We're as progressive as it gets in the area, including hospitals," said James Colone, the group's director of imaging.

The Syracuse group has become a national attraction, a must-see site visit for orthopedic groups contemplating a similar digital migration. Colone said digital imaging in orthopedics, though growing, is still an isolated phenomenon.

"Most private orthopedic practices are not there yet. But they are going to have to get their images on a PACS eventually because more and more hospitals even here in central New York are going filmless," he said.

While the move positioned the six-office operation several steps ahead of regional hospitals and other orthopedic practices in the area, it didn't avoid issues familiar to digital radiology practices.

"The biggest challenge was culture shock - teaching old doctors new tricks," Colone said.

It can be a hurdle to get orthopedic surgeons who have spent their careers hanging film to sit down at a workstation and manipulate images with a mouse, he said. The older the doctor, the more intense the resistance seems to be.

Colone's group selected one technologist to receive intensive PACS training from the vendor. This tech then spent time training each doctor.

"That way, once the vendor application specialist was gone, we still had at least one tech who understood PACS and could answer questions from users," Colone said.