The transition to filmless radiology has shown a regional health-care provider to prescribe a network upgrade.

Peninsulas Health Care Corp. (PHCC) Wednesday said it was ready to begin the second stage of a project that will

expand its recently implemented Picture Archival and Communications System (PACS) to St. Lawrence’s U.S. Memorial Hospital and Grand Bank Health Clinic in Newfoundland. It will also be offering PACS to health care boards within Newfoundland and between some health care boards within the Atlantic Region. PHCC, based about 180 km northwest of St. John’s, provides medical services to 57,000 residents in 161 communities, employing more than 1,000 management and staff.

The PACS implementation means medical staff can store the results of a radiology exam in digital forms instead of film. Despite the environmental benefits and easier manipulation of the files, their size — which ranges from 1MB to more than 60MB — threatened to strain the organization’s existing network, said PHCC network administrator Rob Green, who solved the problems by building two redundant backbone networks based on 3Com’s SuperStack 3 line of switches.

“”We didn’t know really what to expect,”” he said. “”We knew some clients had to be connected with 100 megabit full duplex. When we got into it more and more and realized how big the images actually were, we decided to put in something that would be sufficient for now and for years to come.””

Right now PHCC stores files for five years or more, Green said. The organization is considering a storage area networking solution that would take images off one server and locate them on another. This could allow it to store images for 10 years.

PHCC technicians would traditionally conduct X-rays and convert them from plates to film, Green said, then take it to a radiologist who would review them, dictate notes, then give them back to technician who would put them on a shelf. Using PACS, an ultrasound can automatically be transmitted to the server, where the radiologist clicks on the icon and brings up the image.

“”You can see where it cuts down on all this walking around,”” he said.

IDC Canada networking analyst Dan McLean said many health-care organizations are only beginning to realize the networking implications of digital imaging.

“”It’s probably safe to say that for a lot of them, if they’re not doing digital imaging right now and if they have enterprise infrastructures in place around communication services, they’re not going to be able to support that application,”” he said. “”Hospitals are certainly among those organizations that are always challenged to stay current with technology.””

PACs isn’t the only thing running on the PHCC network. It also handles electronic patient information, e-mail and Internet access. Green said t

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