When South Australia’s Benson Radiology implemented its digital imaging system, it moved its core IT infrastructure to Nextgen Group’s data centre to reduce the possibility of system downtime and to leverage the extensive Nextgen state-wide fibre backbone. This ensures that medical practitioners can access approved patient information anytime and anywhere.
“Anecdotal evidence would suggest that we have been able to improve operational efficiency by somewhere between 20 and 30 per cent”
Mr Keith Kranz, IT Project Manager, Benson Radiology.
“Time is money. The performance of hardware, the network, applications and user interface can all add time to a transaction, so addressing these
individually and collectively will be an important contributor to IT’s success or failure. A quality PACS supported by a robust broadband network will provide positive business productivity outcomes by eliminating much of the lag-time.”
Founded in 1958, Benson Radiology is a large radiology practice based in South Australia. With 29 radiologists and over 350 employees located at 20 branches across the state, Benson has established a reputation for delivering high quality clinical and diagnostic services.
Utilising the latest patient imaging equipment coupled with information technology systems, Benson Radiology offers a large range of dental and medical diagnostic radiology services including X-rays, MRI scans, CT scans, ultrasound and biopsy scans.
It principally operates within private clinics and also has a well established public and private hospital capability that includes 24/7 accident and emergency services.
Globally, the health sector has and is undergoing radical reengineering centred on the evolving patient medical record. As a major patient diagnostic tool, radiology services will feature predominantly. Scanning technologies such as MRI, CT and Ultrasound generate large amounts of imaging data which is critical for diagnosis and ongoing patient care. Managing the large volumes of data that will form part of the medical record will be a major challenge given that a medical record is likely to include a patients’ full lifecycle. In addition, this patient medical record is also being used in the present by hospitals, specialists and attending doctors for the purposes of pre and post operative planning and continuing care.
According to Keith Kranz, IT Project Manager at Benson Radiology, with the increasing reliance on electronic information, being able to access high bandwidth and reliable telecommunications technology at a reasonable price is critical to providing the right information, to the right medical practitioner at the right time.
“The technology continues to be highly advanced at the patient level,” Mr Kranz said. “However, until recently, we were still quite dependent on paper and film-based, manual systems at the radiologist and administrative level.”
“Our biggest challenge as an organisation was to present all the information that supported quality radiologist reporting in a consolidated and timely way while at the same time improving the availability of patient information for their referrer post examination. We did not want distance to be an impediment to network performance or the quality of care we delivered.”
“For example images acquired from a patient in Mt Gambier, 430 km by road from Adelaide, are available anywhere in the practice, immediately. This will only occur if the network is strong and reliable with sufficient bandwidth as the images will vary greatly in size, depending on the examination.”
Benson’s Picture Archival Communications Systems (PACS) stores images and other data gathered from across the state and aggregates all of the associated administrative processes so the radiologists can produce their diagnostic reports in a timely and efficient manner.
“Specialist radiologists are a very expensive resource within the business and will become easily frustrated if they have to wait too long for images and other patient information to appear,” Mr Kranz said. “The most frequent complaint we hear from our
IT users is the amount of time it takes for a system to respond.” “Time is money. The performance of hardware, the network, applications and user interface can all add time to a transaction, so addressing these individually and collectively will be an important contributor to IT’s success or failure. A quality PACS supported by a robust broadband network will provide positive business productivity outcomes by eliminating much of the lag-time.”
Benson Radiology has made a significant capital investment over the last three years in new IT systems and applications. The core IT infrastructure has been centralised to Nextgen Networks data centre in Hindley Street, Adelaide. Given this relocation, Benson Radiology has also been able to leverage Nextgen’s high bandwidth fibre-optic network – South Australia’s 2nd largest – for 14 of its Branches.
All of these locations are serviced by 10Mb links with several sites also having PACS servers locally which are used for short term storage and data compression.
“Our core data is stored at Nextgen’s data centre which is a premium facility providing high security, full back-up power
and a controlled operating environment,” Mr. Kranz said. “With Nextgen providing full network support and management right up to the front door of our branches.”
“We also have the ability to scale up the speed and bandwidth of our network connections should this be required. If, for any reason, service is disrupted to any of our sites, we are advised immediately and can commence troubleshooting at the disconnected location.”
“We can also access technical, engineering and telecommunications strategic planning services from Nextgen to manage network performance, shape traffic and minimise ongoing operational costs.
Mr Kranz said benefits have been achieved right across the practice by leveraging the new technology and Nextgen’s data services. Work practice change and improvement has occurred at a clerical, technical and medical staff level. Administrative processes and workflow management has been reviewed and changed while performance benchmarking and metrics have been identified to support further improvement.
“Anecdotal evidence would suggest that we have been able to improve operational efficiency by somewhere between 20 and 30 per cent,” Mr Kranz said. “This means that we have more time to spend with patients if required and we are better able to manage unexpected Radiologist absence.”
“We are only 12 months into the current contract with Nextgen, but our whole of life cost benefit analysis indicates that we should recover the initial capital investment within five years.” “Changing to a fully electronic model not only noticeably improves productivity at the radiologist level but it also gives
us an unprecedented ability to open new locations, enhance existing sites and cope better with any increase in demand for patient and clinical services.”
Importantly, the most significant beneficiary of the new systems and network infrastructure is the patient.
“The new system provides electronic tools that were previously manual,” Mr Kranz said. “Images can be shared, leveraging specialist radiologist skills internally, and reviewed at meetings where the clinical team can decide the best treatment regime,” Mr Kranz said.
“As radiology is a major diagnostic tool, the time between the scan and the diagnostic examination which, may include
available history, needs to be as short as possible, particularly for patients with life threatening or chronic condition.” “Meanwhile, improvements in service chain management involving the Diagnostic providers, GP, specialist enhances the continuity of care. By virtue of us being able to send images electronically to our referrers, there is a considerable systemic cost and time saving.”
“Being able to access patient images from anywhere in the practice and to confer on those images when required has dramatically improved the delivery of patient and clinical services …”
Mr Keith Kranz, IT Project Manager, Benson Radiology.