by Hamish Barwick

I-MED Network gets into the digital picture

Mar 02, 2011
Healthcare IndustryInnovationIT Management

Australian private medical diagnostic imaging group, I-MED Network, may well have been one of the last bastions in the country for film rather than digital cameras.

But that has all changed following a two-year project led by Sydney-based chief information officer, Bart Dekker, to ease doctors away from their beloved photos and light boards to digital images.

The organisation runs 200 diagnostic imaging clinics across the country, with 4500 staff performing more than 4.5 million patient examinations every year. Diagnostic imaging is used to identify and treat illnesses through early detection.

“It was necessary because just like you would have seen with camera technology, the old 35 millimetre film became cumbersome and difficult to use,” Dekker told CIO Australia.

Patients had to wait longer for medical reports because once the photos were taken, staff were tied up with processing the film, printing the required images and sending them back to the doctor.

Dekker said the majority of staff have embraced the use of digital images since the project was completed three years ago.

“It’s made it easier for doctors to look at images rather than putting them up on a whiteboard,” he said. “All the images can be stored electronically and since that information is stored, you can go back and look at old images.”

The final stage of the project is to encourage general practitioners in referral hospitals to go digital.

However, because the image sets can range in size from 10MB up to 200MB, Dekker and chief executive officer, Mark Masterson, are watching the National Broadband Network (NBN) developments with interest.

“Any increase in pipe size that allows us to get those images out to clinics faster will be very beneficial,” Masterson said. “Since we have clinics in both urban and rural areas we could also potentially use the NBN for video conferencing to connect doctors with technicians.”

The organisation also has a data issue as the sheer number of images produced creates up to 12 terabytes of data across its network per week. To alleviate this problem, Dekker is now exploring the use of an internal cloud using its VMware environment.

“Some of our human resources systems are in the cloud but we want to add clinical systems and storage of medical records,” he said.

The project is set for completion in the next two years.

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