By Vivian Moreau
Imagine you break your leg rippin’ through the trees on Blackcomb and then get transferred from Whistler to Lions Gate hospital in North Vancouver. You’ve already gone through one uncomfortable x-ray session in Whistler. But somewhere in the transfer the envelope of x-rays slip from your fingers and when you arrive at Lions Gate you have to go through the procedure again.
Those days are over, says Joan Dalgleish, Whistler’s manager of diagnostic imaging. This past week a corridor-wide teleradiology system was booted up. The $1.2 million picture archiving communications system (PACS) is a computerized system for storing digitized scans that allows radiologists and doctors anywhere between Pemberton and North Vancouver to view patient x-rays. It’s a giant, efficient leap, says Dalgleish.
“Images are digitized much the same as taking a picture with your
digital camera,” Dalgleish said from her Whistler Health Care Centre office.
“You take an image and download it to your computer and then you send it by
e-mail to all your friends.”
Comparably, digital scans for patients are stored in a communal
computer system that can be accessed by various health care centres.
Dalgleish says image quality is not only superb, but the system
allows a three-dimensional look at cases.
“Images can be moved around, magnified, lightened, darkened,” she
said. “If they (radiologists) are not seeing an area as well as they like they
can zoom right in and put different parameters on it to make it easy to read.”
In addition, images do not deteriorate with manipulation.
Funded through the efforts of a unique three-year cooperative effort
among Pemberton, Whistler and Squamish health care foundations, and through the
regional health district and the Vancouver Health Authority, the teleradiology
system makes for efficient use of radiologist’s time but also allows for more
comprehensive follow-ups, as Whistler doctors can track the progress of
patients transferred to the Lower Mainland.
The picture archiving system works in conjunction with an upgraded
corridor-wide computer system that allocates a common identification number to
patients and allows for more efficient care.
“So if a doctor at Lions Gate wants to look at films from Whistler
she can go in the integrated computer system and find all images tied to that
patient. It’s really slick,” said Dalgleish.
WHCC Foundation chair Marnie Simon said the new system is an example
of what cooperation can achieve.
“Our communities have a history of being very competitive, but that
wasn’t effective in relation to getting what we needed for bigger health care
items needed corridor-wide. It didn’t work to pit one against the other.”
When Whistler received a grant three years ago to develop a health
care board they decided to share the grant with Squamish and Pemberton and
invited them to join forces and participate.
“The corridor is a very large area and there is becoming more of a sense that we have to look corridor-wide rather than focus on individual communities — the boundaries are really not there anymore.”