New digital diagnostic imaging equipment in the Colchester East Hants Health Authority will allow area physicians and their patients to make faster and better treatment decisions. The Department of Health has invested more than $950,000 in new equipment as part of the Picture Archive and Communications System (PACS) expansion project. The project will replace nearly all film-based imaging in the province with faster, safer and more streamlined processes. PACS gives physicians instant access to results of diagnostic imaging tests including CT scans, X-rays and ultrasounds. The PACS system has been up and running in the Colchester East Hants Health Authority at both Colchester Regional Hospital in Truro and Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospital in Tatamagouche since December 2005. “Our plan is to introduce new information technology across the province that will improve the quality of care and access to tests and treatment,” said Health Minister Chris d’Entremont, today, March 6. “In fact, the PACS system is already making a difference for patients in communities where it has been implemented, including quicker treatment decisions and the reduction of unnecessary travel for some patients.” The PACS system is currently in place in the districts of South Shore Health, Capital Health, Cumberland Health, Guysborough Antigonish Strait Health Authority and at the IWK Health Centre. These systems will be upgraded and enhanced to a common standard as part of the project. “PACS technology has enhanced our ability to care for our patients, by reducing the time it takes to process images and improving our ability to share images between departments and facilities,” said Sue MacEachern, vice- president of patient care in the Colchester East Hants Health Authority. “I would like to commend staff and physicians on a successful implementation.” Previously, if patients at Colchester Regional Hospital were transferred to another facility for care or referred to out-of-town specialists, it was necessary for their X-ray film to go with them. Films were later returned to the hospital for its records and future reference. Patients who were X-rayed at Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospital had their film sent to Colchester Regional Hospital the next day to be read by radiologists in Truro. This is no longer necessary. Now, images can be instantly transmitted to Truro to be reviewed and interpreted by the radiologists, reducing the turnaround time by as much as 24 hours. “Within our first week of operation I heard feedback from a physician in Tatamagouche who was impressed with the prompt turnaround provided through the new system,” said Allan Walsh, diagnostic imaging manager for the health authority . “Instead of waiting until the next day for the results, the physician had the radiologists’ report available within hours.” In addition to several new pieces of equipment in the diagnostic imaging department, additional workstations were added in the emergency department and in the intensive care units where physicians and other authorized staff can access digital images. The PACS expansion project is a partnership between the health districts in Nova Scotia, the Department of Health and Canada Health Infoway, a federal agency supporting electronic health record initiatives across Canada. The project began in 2004 at a total cost of $25 million. Canada Health Infoway funds 75 per cent of specific elements of the project that meet its funding criteria.