Chilton Medical Center employs new technology

Published 10:15 pm Friday, April 30, 2010

A new CT scanner and other technology at Chilton Medical Center will benefit patients and hospital staff in numerous ways.

The hospital currently uses a six-slice CT scanner, which will soon be replaced by a much faster and more versatile 16-slice scanner. This will decrease patients’ time on the exam table as well as lessen the amount of radiation exposure, said CT Technologist Shawn Craddock.

“On the flip note of that, it will allow us to do more CT angiography studies, or studies of primary arteries,” Craddock added.

The new scanner will have the capability to do a wider range of scans, such as neck studies and runoff studies down patients’ legs to evaluate blockages in arteries. As a result, less people will have to travel outside the county to have scans performed.

In addition, the time it takes to do a typical CT scan may be reduced by as much as two thirds.

“That’s a big deal for a patient with a hurting back,” Craddock said.

The hospital does roughly 400 scans per month with the current equipment. The staff hopes to increase that number by at least 10 to 15 percent.

“Our goal with this project is to do the exams we are currently doing better and then additional procedures that we currently don’t have the capability of doing so we can provide the community a similar level of service that’s available in some larger facilities,” said Shannon Hamilton, director of radiology.

The radiology department is now completely digital. Less than eight months ago, they upgraded to a new Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS), which allows professionals to view CT scans and other images from all different angles — as opposed to the traditional film placed in front of a fluorescent light.

The PACS allows for instant storage and retrieval of images, which can mean earlier diagnoses. The images can be rotated and even digitally labeled.

“It’s an interactive work station,” Craddock said. “Being film-less is awesome, for lack of better words.”

Meanwhile, all documentation is done by computer, with the exception of physician orders and patient progress notes. Hospital CEO Debra Richardson said the goal is to have all documentation digitized by September.

Nurses look up patient charts on two new C5 wireless tablets, which employ touch-screen technology and digital keyboards. CMC has ordered two more of the tablets, which are much more compact and portable than their predecessors.

“It helps to reduce patient errors, so it benefits patients by allowing for safe administration of medications due to the safeguards that are built in to the system,” said Jimmy Smith, clinical IT coordinator.

The computer will alert a nurse, for example, if a dosage is too high or if the time of dosage is not correct.

“My nurses are happier with the C5s because they are easier to use than just a conventional laptop,” Smith said.