Digital picks up pace for McKenna doctors

By Bernie Monegain
12:00 AM

Doctors with privileges at McKenna Memorial Hospital here now have access to diagnostic images and reports and patient exam status online anywhere, anytime — from their offices or their homes or anywhere in the hospital.

"I love it," said Dr. Mark Kneuper. "I can be in the intensive care unit, and it provides me with the in– formation I need immediately." For Kneuper, a surgeon, and the other 250 McKenna Memorial referring physicians, the Web-based system means better patient care, said Dr. Fernando Bazan, a radiologist who was instrumental in the hospital's switch to digital images.

McKenna Memorial, a 132 bed facility, serves a community of about 36,000 people in New Braunfels, a community in the Texas hill country between San Antonio and Austin.

Today, four months after going online, Bazan has access to any image he wants immediately. In the past, he said, the film might have been in transition – on another doctor's desk, in another department. Once it was located, it would take time to retrieve it. "It just speeds everything up," Bazan said.

Besides the advantage of speed, there are also the pluses of being able to zoom in on a specific spot and also of creating a 3-D images, said Kneuper.

McKenna tapped Agfa, a Belgium-based digital imaging technology company that teamed up with Evolved, a Canadian healthcare technology company to roll out Evolved's RadWeb technology as part of Agfa's IMPAX integrated solution.

Bazan said the switch to digital at McKenna was a team effort. "People were really excited about it," he said. Making sure that everyone was appropriately trained was the most difficult piece of the project and also key to its success, he said.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based research firm Frost & Sullivan predicts more than half of all healthcare providers will invest in PACS by 2006, and healthcare providers will continue to seek this technology, as the $498 million market is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 14 percent until 2007.

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