Little by little, the storage of X-Ray data on conventional film will disappear from the modern 21st century hospital. In the Netherlands, Philips Medical Systems (PMS) is now partnering with the Arnhem Rijnstate medical facility in a ten year project to generate a fully "filmless" hospital. The idea is to turn Rijnstate into a pilot site to serve as an example for other Dutch medical centres. In this capacity, the hospital has been able to obtain a special contract with reduced price settings. A large scale initiative of this size and ambition is truly unique within the Dutch health care sector, as is stated by the Automatisering Gids.
Rijnstate will be provided by PMS with innovative radiological equipment, digital image processing software, as well as distribution and archiving hardware for at least several tens of million guilders. In the same period of time, the hospital will invest about eight million guilders in the digitization of the radiology department. From any location in the medical facility, physicians and care takers will be able to consult medical images, produced by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, ultrasound, and computed tomography (CT). The partners will start with spectrographic research on cancer patients by means of state-of-the-art MRI equipment.
On an annual base, the Arnhem medical facility, which has a capacity of 780 beds, produces more than 200.000 X-Ray pictures. Throughout the years, the hospital has been building up an enormous archive, stretching over a length of ten to eleven kilometres. This situation will be changed drastically from the moment the new digital approach will be introduced. Since quite some time, PMS has been in search of a partner for digital medical imaging. The company has selected Rijnstate since this medical centre equally offers opportunities for vast scientific research in the field of innovative radiological applications.
More and more medical facilities evolve towards policlinic institutions and promote a reduced patient stay. As a result, the diagnostic departments are put under high pressure, since results need to be available at a very short notice. The digital project therefore will also provide additional connections with the Hospital Information System (HIS) in order to support the diagnostic staff. In a few years, physicians will be able to retrieve digital images for all relevant medical specialities. For that purpose, a 10 Megabit Ethernet will be installed to serve as a broadband internal network.
The digital medical images will probably be stored on optical discs. Image archiving on tape is less appropriate since the legal term for storage amounts to ten years. On a medium such as tape, the storage can only be guaranteed for a period of six years. Earlier this year, PMS has signed agreements with the Carolus Hospital in Den Bosch and the Liduina Hospital in Boxtel. In both medical facilities, physicians are already consulting digital radiology images via high resolution workstations.
In turn, the Bosch Medical Centre in 's Hertogenbosch is using a German system for the production of digital X-Ray pictures. Recently, all of the renowned suppliers of X-Ray film, such as Kodak, Agfa and Sterling, have actively been engaging their R&D divisions in the new research field of digital medical imaging. For more background information on the challenges which emerge from the concept of the "filmless" hospital, we refer to the March article in the Virtual Medical Worlds Magazine Does teleradiology produce "filmless" hospitals?