"Our Open MRI and other MRI equipment are 2004 equipment with the latest technology," Michael said. "All of the scans done on them will be read by local radiologists, which means a quicker turnaround time for the physician to begin treating his patients.".
The new MRI being installed at the medical center has a 1.5 Tesla magnet, a powerful device with increased diagnostic capabilities, Michael said.
"With the new MRI, we will be able to do some scans that we hadn't been able to do before," said Dr. Timothy Whitt, a radiologist at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center. "Those new scans include more in-depth studies of the abdomen, the gallbladder and bile ducts as well as the blood vessels."
New CT scanner
The board of directors has also approved the purchase of a new 16-slice CT scanner, an investment of nearly $1 million. That new equipment is expected to be operational in January and will be located at the diagnostic center.
"Our new CT scanner is state-of-the-art technology that will allow the radiologists to view a cross-section of the body in .75 milliliter slices," Michael said. "That thin of a slice is expected to be able to help detect the tiniest abnormalities or tumors."
Most other hospitals use 1-, 4- or 8-slice CT scans, he said,
Once the new CT scanner arrives, the medical center will have two CT scanners - the new, 16-slice scanner in service at the diagnostic center and a 4-slice scanner at the medical center that was purchased three years ago.
"Having two CT scanners and two MRIs will allow us to decrease the time from when a physician orders a study to the time when the patient actually has the procedure," Michael said. "Where the patient now may wait one to two weeks to have an exam, we expect to reduce that time to one or two days."
The medical center is also acquiring technology known as Patient Archiving Communication System, valued at approximately $2 million. The system is expected to be operational by next April.
"PACS means we are taking a step toward filmless radiology," Michael said. "This system will expedite the turnaround time of radiology reports getting to physicians, and that means quicker diagnoses for patients."
The PACS system digitizes all X-rays and stores them in a computer. Once the images are in the computer, they can be sent to a patient's physician in a matter of minutes. The PACS system will also allow a local physician to consult with an expert on a particular disease while they both look at the patient's scan.
The medical center has also invested $200,000 in Talk Technology, a voice recognition transcription system that is expected to be operational by late October. It will be used for transcribing radiology reports.
"With Talk Technology, the radiologists will dictate their reports into a machine and it instantaneously transcribes it and prints out a report that can be faxed to the patient's floor (if they are hospitalized) and/or the referring physician," Michael explained.