Staying ahead of the curve with tomosynthesis

Digital breast tomosynthesis is no longer just a buzzworthy technology among imaging experts; patients have gotten word and are now increasingly demanding access from their local providers.

Diagnostic imaging practice Radiology Regional Center, which has nine locations serving Southwest Florida, has always tried to stay ahead of the curve, and recently the provider upgraded its PACS technology so that it can meet these patient demands for the latest breast imaging services in a more efficient manner.

The site upgraded to the latest version of McKesson Radiology Mammography Plus™, an embedded breast imaging workflow for full field digital mammography and digital breast tomosynthesis designed to extend the McKesson Radiology™ PACS. More than a simple add-on, the Mammography Plus technology is a fully formed breast imaging system, and Katricia Rodgers CIIP, CPAS RT, PACS Administrator at Radiology Regional Center, says a major benefit of the upgrade was that it allowed the practice to remove their  dedicated mammography workstations.

“It was a difficult workflow when the mammography studies were on another application and then the rest of our images were on another application,” says Rodgers. Consolidating to one application has made her life easier as PACS Administrator and made both transfer and maintenance of images more manageable, which is important for a center performing more than 70,000 mammograms and 300,000 total exams each year.

In addition to alleviating some maintenance headaches, moving away from dedicated mammography workstations brought a major boost to the practice’s bottom line. Radiology Regional previously rented its mammography workstations, and being able to remove the rented units generated thousands in monthly savings.

Another major benefit of the McKesson Radiology Mammography Plus upgrade is a more streamlined approach to protocols, says Rodgers. Site protocols are now easier to adjust and maintain, which was not the case under the previous setup. When the practice was still using the dedicated workstations, a change to a display protocol meant copying and physically bringing the update on a USB drive to every single workstation. Now, Rodgers can make changes centrally and push them out to the practice’s 30 radiologists. “If I have to make a change, it changes it for all 30 users,” she says.

Radiology Regional got plenty of help from their vendor partner McKesson along the way. “Before we went through the upgrade,” says Rodgers, “they did an assessment of our system,  of our hardware and reviewed all the specifications to make sure we would meet all those requirements helping to ensure success from the beginning.”

The practice did encounter some speed issues when viewing tomosynthesis cine loops. After an assessment, Radiology Regional recognized it needed to upgrade its bandwidth and boosted its workstation memory to 24 gigabytes.

Radiology Regional also had no problems tightly integrating the new system with the third party applications it uses. McKesson emphasizes ease of interoperability, and the practice is leveraging XML interfaces to send information to its reporting system, voice recognition and CAD system.

Implementation of the new technology was completed early in 2015, and over the last 18 months, the radiologists have gotten faster with their reads, which Rodgers credits to both the users’ growing comfort level but also the improved functionality offered by the latest version of Mammography Plus. 

“As the radiologists have gotten comfortable with the system and use it day in and day out, they’ve become faster, so their reading times have increased from when we first started,” she says.

In the end, it’s all about the patients. Equipped with the latest in workflow technology, Radiology Regional is poised to stay ahead of the pack and bring patients what they are asking for.

“We’re definitely more noticeable out in the community because we’re offering something that not everybody has,” says Rodgers.