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Central diagnostic image repository coming to Ontario. But will this mean more care closer to home?

The transnational corporation GE Healthcare has announced the completion of a Digital Imaging Repository that connects hospitals and medical centers throughout Southwestern Ontario.  This will allow  26 hospitals in the Erie St. Clair LHIN and South West LHIN to share diagnostic images of examinations.

The repository already contains images from 2.7 million exams and will grow by 120,000 new exams each month. These exams can be accessed by acute care facilities in the two LHINs.

Greg Reed, CEO of eHealth Ontario, the organization responsible for implementing the Ontario government’s "eHealth" agenda states “Now radiologists, referring physicians and specialists across Southwestern Ontario can view images and results anywhere, anytime using the Southwestern Ontario Diagnostic Imaging Network.”

GE Healthcare says "This collaboration enables radiologists to access images that originated in other facilities. Referring physicians can receive patient reports faster. Patients benefit from faster treatment planning, more informed diagnoses and a reduction in unnecessary transfers."

"Information sharing is critical in cancer care," said Dr. Glenn Bauman, Head of Radiation Oncology, London Regional Cancer Program. "By linking to regional hospitals, our specialists can work with local physicians so patients can get care closer to home without compromise in the quality and treatment planning process. This is the preferred patient care model."

Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care adds: "It means that patients are able to access specialists outside of their community without having to travel."
 
While the provincial government has quietly placed considerable emphasis on centralizing hospital services, it seems that emerging technologies enable a larger role for local hospitals, where care can actually be provided closer to home, rather than in distant centres.

eHealth Ontario states that the plan is to expand the system into the Waterloo Wellington and Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHINs.  The London Free Press however reports that  "by 2013 eHealth officials plan to have the entire province hooked up to the repository."

dallan@cupe.ca

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