Integrators' advice helps a radiological diagnostic center move from film to a $600,000 digital medical imaging system.
Just outside of New Orleans sits Covington, LA, a small southern town, home to one of the most advanced medical imaging centers in the nation. Medical Center Diagnostics offers services such as CT (computerized tomography) scans, PET (positron emission tomography) scans, and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Medical Center Diagnostics is one of just a few centers to have its own cyclotron, which produces isotopes for the PET scanner.
The goal of this center is to enhance patient care through technology. In order to reach this goal, the owner of the center, a physician, realized a need to deploy a state-of-the-art infrastructure to allow radiologists and doctors to receive immediate, accurate results. This infrastructure would be based on existing and emerging technologies using high-speed links with security as its core component. This infrastructure would allow Medical Center Diagnostics radiologists and participating physicians worldwide to view patients' images over the Internet, have the results faxed or e-mailed to them, or sent to a physician's printer. This would greatly reduce the amount of time between diagnosis and treatment.
"The owner knew what he wanted to accomplish, but he didn't know, technologically, how to make it happen," said Steven Galloway, co-owner of Systems Design Technologies (Franklinton, LA). Not only is it critical to have the images and diagnoses readily available, it is also critical to have the information accessible for comparison as a patient's treatment progresses. All images would be stored redundantly locally, as well as archived online, but at an off-site facility.
Team Evaluated Every Data Point
Galloway, an RCDD (registered communications distribution designer) and an engineer experienced in healthcare, educational, and criminal vertical markets, was called in as a consultant. A team was put in place to evaluate every data point within the network, both local area and wide area. Carrie Higbie, RCDD/LAN specialist, worked with Galloway on the project. Galloway and Higbie knew that bandwidth would be a critical factor in making the patient care cycle work. For that they would recommend a Gigabit Ethernet networking switch for high-speed Internet access. They compared two vendors, Cisco (San Jose, CA) and Anritsu (Laguna Hills, CA), for performance, throughput on the backplane, product reliability, customer support, and warranties. Based on this comparison, they recommended the Anritsu MultiFlow 5064 network switch because of its bandwidth capability.
The switching was just a part of the $600,000 solution, though. Galloway and his team also recommended Dell servers and workstations, an Alcatel phone system, and a Novell operating system. Novell's ability to interface with ActivCard products to control physical access offers versatility. This made it very easy for physicians to work with the center, regardless of their technical abilities. The Alcatel phone system, which cost $35,000, would allow the facility to use IP (Internet protocol) trunking, saving money on long-distance charges.
Galloway also knew it would be necessary to redesign the facility's power system, since this would be a 24/7, mission- critical operation. A three-phase UPS (uninterruptible power supply) would be backed up by a generator. Transient voltage surge suppression was also placed on all of the equipment. With the power system enhancements in place, the facility could stay up and running, even in the case of a catastrophic power failure.
Project Finishes 20 Days Ahead Of Schedule
The entire installation took about three months to complete, and Galloway was able to have the solution in place 20 days before the facility planned to go online. This enabled him to get a few bugs out of the system and complete user training. There were actually fewer bugs than there were user problems. "Whenever you go to a completely new phone system, Internet access, and server, it can overwhelm the staff," he said.
The investment in the solution was substantial, but the center started realizing cost reductions immediately. "When customers go digital," commented Galloway, "they immediately cut expenses because they don't have to use film anymore. They eliminate the cost for processing chemicals and for courier services that transport the films from the diagnostic center to a doctor's office or hospital. They also reduce the real estate space needed to store bulky films."
The successful installation has assured Systems Design Technologies of added business down the road. Medical Center Diagnostics' Covington facility will serve as the main operating base for all future sites. Two more Louisiana centers will be built and will come online in 2002. Facilities in Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, and South Carolina will follow. Galloway expects to be the solution provider who gets all the sites up and running.