St James’s Hospital uses IT to reduce exposure to radiation

9 Sep 2009

St James’s Hospital in Dublin has become the first hospital in Ireland to deploy a proactive decision-support system within its electronic patient record (EPR) system to reduce the number of unnecessary CT scans which may expose patients to radiation.

Although CT scans have revolutionised radiologists’ ability to diagnose diseases, the rising use of CT scans also brings a potential risk. When medically necessary, detailed CT scans can help radiologists detect problems that would not be apparent using less sophisticated images created by a traditional X-ray.

Compared to traditional imaging methods, however, CT scans have the potential to expose patients to much higher levels of radiation. A 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that higher exposure to radiation as a result of unnecessary CT scans could increase a patient’s risk of developing cancer.

Health-care solutions provider Cerner has deployed proactive decision support technology to reduce the number of unnecessary CT pulmonary angiogram studies and the exposure to radiation.

“Advances in medical technology are only beneficial to the patient when used appropriately,” said Dr Mary Keogan, St. James’s Hospital Director of Radiology.

“By using these unique decision-support features within our Cerner Millennium® electronic patient record, our aim is to ensure our patients are receiving appropriate care, and to reduce the radiation exposure and expense associated with potentially unnecessary imaging procedures.”

Managers at St. James’s asked Cerner if there was a way to incorporate a checklist based on the Wells criteria, which is used to determine the appropriateness of a CTPA study, into its Cerner Millennium EPR.

An alert was created within the Cerner Discern Advisor clinical decision support solution that prompts doctors to complete the Wells criteria checklist before they can order a CTPA scan for a patient.

“By weeding out unnecessary CTPA scans, the decision-support feature also could help decrease wait times for all patients needing access to available CT scanning services offered by St. James’s,” said Amanda Green, Cerner Ireland managing director. “Reducing these unnecessary medical procedures also could save money in the long run.”

St. James’s has used Cerner Millennium solutions to automate processes in its radiology department since 2006.

These Cerner solutions have improved radiologists’ overall productivity by 12pc by decreasing the amount of time it takes for radiologists to access imaging studies and by enabling them to view images more efficiently. Patients also have benefited from St. James’s use of Cerner solutions.

Lost radiology films have been completely eliminated since St. James’s began using Cerner solutions. Due to the time savings gained from tracking down lost X-rays, St. James’s has been able to increase the number of patients it sees in its weekly trauma clinics by almost 50pc. Patients also are receiving their X-ray results in a matter of hours now instead of days.

Photo: St James’s Hospital in Dublin is aiming to reduce patients’ exposure to radiation through the use of IT.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years