Department goes digitalBy Lisa Schlichtman

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Recent innovations in the radiology department at St. John's Hospital-Cassville ensure that local residents have the same access diagnostic imaging procedures as their big city neighbors.

Over the past year, St. John's has invested approximately $250,000 in a computerized radiography system for the Cassville hospital.

"Radiology is in a big transition right now, going from old film to digital imaging," said Larry Gold, manager of the radiology department at St. John's Hospital-Cassville. "Doctors no longer have to hang up film but can now bring up images on computer monitors.

"With film, what is on the film is what you have to work with. You cannot change it without re-exposing the patient to radiation," Gold explained. "With digital images, you can manipulate the images to see different areas, you can adjust tissue densities and you can magnify the images to see more detail."

The new technology digitizes X-ray images so they can be viewed on computer screens by physicians and technologists. Images can also be burned onto a CD for patients so they don't have to carry the large, unwieldy film.

Images can also be sent electronically to hospitals and physicians anywhere in the world.

Gary Jordan, St. John's west region president, believes the new technology will have a big impact on patient care.

"Computed radiology improves healthcare quality and service because of its ability to move images to where the patient or physician needs them in a more timely manner," Jordan said.

Gold said the new equipment also allows the radiology department to work more efficiently.

"This system improves the work flow for technologists and doctors so we can work more effectively," said Gold. "It also improves the accuracy of the image and allows us to move images very rapidly.

"It really speeds up the way ER physicians can provide treatment," said Gold. "They no longer have to wait long periods of time before they get interpretations back. If a person has been in a car wreck and needs to be transported to Springfield for treatment, the physician there can already have the images and plan a course of treatment."

And while the upfront cost of the new technology was expensive, the investment will pay off in the long run by improving patient care and by

eliminating the need to purchase costly film and chemicals.

"It's a system that more than pays for itself," Gold said.

The local radiology department is also benefitting from the recent addition of a full-time radiologist who serves the Cassville and Aurora hospitals.

Dr. Jeffrey Shore, M.D., a board-certified radiologist, joined the hospital's medical staff in February. He works at the Cassville hospital on Tuesdays and Fridays and is in Aurora on Monday, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

"Dr. Shore is a great addition," said Gold. "He's one of the nicest guys I've ever met in radiology. He's real down to earth and interacts very well with patients."

The radiology department offers almost every procedure that is available at St. John's Hospital-Springfield. Tests offered locally include: CT scans; MRIs; both screening and diagnostic mammography; general and vascular ultrasounds; bone density scans; nuclear medicine; cardiac stress testing; and general X-rays.

The only diagnostic tests not available at the Cassville hospital are invasive testing, such as biopsies.

In addition to high tech equipment, Cassville's radiology department relies on the expertise of its radiologic technologists who have a combined 174 years of experience.

The department is served by seven full-time radiologic technologists who are all registered with the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, which requires extensive training and continuing education.

Employees and their years of experience include: Gold, 15 years; William Deweese, 27 years; Gail Pierce, 27 years; Carol Coleman, 12 years; Amy Ertel, 6 years; Carl Larkin, 52 years; and Marilyn Lyons, 35 years.

"I received my training in the Army, and we have several who have worked in big trauma centers," said Gold. "We have a lot of experience here in the department."

Radiologic technologists are required to receive at least 12 hours of continuing education each year.

"It's so we keep up with new technology and brush up on things we learned in school but don't use every day," Gold said.

For more information on the services offered at St. John's Hospital-Cassville, call 847-6000.

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