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Niagara Health launches new digital imaging system to significantly improve patient care and outcomes

Posted May 24th, 2023

A South Asian man sits at a desk with a computer monitor showing images of a patient's brain scan.

Dr. Amit Mehta, Deputy Chief of Diagnostic Imaging, with images captured by the new Sectra picture archiving and communication system.

Faster diagnoses, increased collaboration between healthcare providers, and prioritizing the most urgent patient cases – these are just some of the benefits of a new diagnostic imaging system launched earlier this year at Niagara Health.

Called Sectra One enterprise imaging, this powerful software also does everything from loading images faster, which makes it easier for healthcare providers to share patient information, to preventing gaps between patient referrals and followup appointments.

“If we want to provide the best possible care, we need to have the tools to do that,” says Dr. Julian Dobranowski, Chief of Diagnostic Imaging. “This is one of the important tools that will allow us to optimize the patient care we provide.”

Sectra One will allow healthcare teams in Cardiology, Radiology, Orthopedic Surgery, Emergency and Oncology departments to collaborate more efficiently and share resources across all five Niagara Health sites.

Additionally, it will offer workflow, communication, and diagnostic features that make it more convenient for clinicians to read studies, and report findings directly into the software rather than recording and transcribing them separately. It will also allow them to communicate directly with each other about a patient’s condition and treatment.

Sectra One will be fully integrated with the new hospital information system when it launches in September 2024.

Making diagnoses sooner

Niagara Health performs about 30,000 CT scans a year, with some scans capturing between 200 and 1,000 images. Having that information and those tools in one place means more efficient diagnoses, explains Dr. Amit Mehta, Deputy Chief of Diagnostic Imaging.

Radiologists will also be able to review the most pressing patient cases first thanks to the ability to build features, such as artificial intelligence to organize cases by priority within Sectra One.

“We try to do everything as quickly as possible but if we get a deluge of studies, it’s hard to know which to do first. The only way to prioritize these until now was by the time of the study,” Dr. Mehta says. “Going forward, this will allow us to prioritize studies that are the most urgent and that prevents any delays in treatment for those patients.

“Our goal for anyone coming from the Emergency Department is to interpret their images within an hour or less; strokes within 20 minutes. These are the patients who need treatment as soon as possible.”

He and others on the Diagnostic Imaging team will be able to use data provided by the Sectra One system to track whether they achieve those targets and determine other possible service improvements, notes Mike Sharma, Director of Diagnostics.

“The data analytics, which we will be able to mine from the Sectra One picture archiving and communication system will include our volumes, report turnaround times and many other key performance indicators. This will allow us to monitor our performance and efficiency and to see where improvements can be made,” Sharma says.

Healthcare providers outside Niagara will be able to access patient information quickly and easily, too, because Sectra One integrates seamlessly with regional and provincial digital imaging solutions. This will prevent unnecessary duplicate testing that can further delay diagnosis and treatment.

Meanwhile, teams at Niagara Health will be able to use Sectra One to access and migrate over images done elsewhere in Ontario from as far back as 2010. They’ll be able to view those archived images within minutes rather than having to wait days like with the previous digital imaging system.

“It was always a struggle to obtain prior examinations to do a comparison,” Dr. Mehta says. “Without these prior studies, it would be hard for the radiologist to know if there were changes in a patient’s condition or if things stabilized.”

The switch to Sectra One is part of Niagara Health’s digital strategy, aimed at improving the patient experience. It comes after listening to patient feedback, Dr. Dobranowski says.

“We’re trying to improve quality, patient outcomes, and the patient experience,” he says. “That’s the driver of this change.”

Patient partner Catherine Bourque is excited by Sectra One’s potential.

Bourque has been receiving treatment for cancer at Niagara Health since 2015. She knows how critical high-quality diagnostic imaging, thorough, standardized reporting, and early diagnosis are to a patient’s healthcare journey.

With physicians in Niagara, Mississauga and Toronto, she’s also grateful Sectra One’s digital archives will be accessible to doctors anywhere in Ontario, reducing repeat tests, which creates additional stress for patients and can expose them to more radiation.

“I know the danger of delayed diagnoses and I’ve decided that’s never going to happen to me again,” Bourque says. “Information is power. Anything that makes diagnostics more accessible and easy to understand, I’m all for.”

Niagara Health System