Peace Harbor injects $6 million in upgrades to radiology department


Dec. 12, 2018 — The radiology division of PeaceHealth Peace Harbor medical center is getting a major upgrade with new machines and a remodeled department. The $6 million project, which is expected to be completed in April, is expected to increase accuracy in diagnostics as well as to save patient’s money, time and trips to Eugene for some testing.

“We want to be current and provide the best, safest services to our patients that we possibly can,” said Radiology Manager Dan Goldblatt. “We can’t have 15-year-old equipment. It will cost more money to maintain it than it will to put something new in, so we’re beyond excited about the changes.”

The changes and new equipment look to answer some of the department’s most frequent questions and concerns by patients: How much is it going to cost, how long is it going to take and how many times does a patient have to keep coming back?

“This will really consolidate everything,” Goldblatt said.

One example of time and cost savings come from the department’s new 3D mammogram machine. Older machines used two-dimensional screenings, only taking two pictures of the top and side of the breast. The new machine can obtain up to 300 new images, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“In the past, when you’d come in and have a mammogram, about one in four patients would have a follow up,” Goldblatt explained.

The machines would have a difficult time taking an image of certain types of breasts, especially those that are scarred or dense compared to fatty, which makes for an easier image. Because of this, patients would have to be called in again for additional imaging, creating a higher bill, taking more time and causing more stress.

“It doesn’t sound good when we call you back for additional imaging,” Goldblatt said. “It makes you worried that you have cancer.”

However, with the new technology, first time images will be extraordinarily more accurate.

“This is going to cut it down from one in four to about one in 11 patients who need to come back,” Goldblatt said. “The biggest take from this 3D imaging is the amount of definitive diagnosis we can get on the first shot.”

Another example of saving cost and time comes with the new, second generation ultrasound machine.

“An ultrasound, for many things, is like a gateway,” Goldblatt said. “You come in, get an ultrasound, see this and this. Then you go to a different system and narrow down. This is a screening tool.”

In the past, the image structure wasn’t the best, and the machine was limited in how deep it could look into tissue. This was particularly difficult for larger patients with larger waist sizes.

“What happens in the past, you come here with feet pain, leg pain, numbness, blood clots,” Goldblatt said. “We do a study, can’t see it. What do you do you do then? Go to a CT scan.”

Which is a more expensive test that would require another visit.

“With these new machines, the depth is greater, how far you can see inside,” Goldblatt said. “We can see better inside with this without going to CT.”

The more medics can catch up front, the less additional testing they would be forced to do.

Another new machine, the D-Spect cardiac scanner, is looking to save time for patients while they are getting scanned. The machine itself is brand new technology, with less than 100 units in the country currently used. It is used to scan images of heart and coronary arteries.

The previous machine would require patients to lie still on a table for 60 minutes.

“It’s hard to hold still for an hour, and the likelihood of motion or degradation of image quality based on time increased,” Goldblatt said.

But the D-Spect test only takes 12 minutes and can be done with the patient in a reclined chair. More comfortable for the patients, and less time for the test.

“That means we can increase our volume as well and we don’t have to wait around for patients to get appointments,” Goldblatt said.

Patient comfort will also be a factor in the department’s new C-Arm, an imager that looks like a giant clamp. The mobile imager, which is used for capturing images of feet, ankles and smaller extremities, can actually wrap around a patient while they’re in bed. This is particularly helpful for patients with a broken leg, who beforehand had to go to the traditional X-ray.

Comfort also plays a factor in the department’s planned MRI machine upgrade, which will have a much wider opening.

“People go into an MRI scanner and they’re claustrophobic,” Goldblatt said. “It’s right in front of your face. This is 72 centimeters around. We really anticipate cutting down on claustrophobic patients.”

The MRI is also more accurate, which will affect how much contrast doctors will have to administer to patients.

“We don’t necessarily like giving people contrast,” Goldblatt said. “It’s giving people medication, and you try not to do that as much as possible. You can be allergic to it. This machine will allow us to image arteries much faster without contrast, then we had previously done before. Renal, arteries, legs, carotid arteries, arteries in your brain, all without getting contrast injections.”

Goldblatt pointed out that the new MRI would not be the total end of using contrast, but it will greatly reduce the amount administration.

The old MRI machine has now been retired, and the hospital is using a mobile unit from Texas while they remodel a room for the new MRI machine. The room itself takes time to build, considering the complex wiring involved and copper panels that are needing to line the inside of the walls.

“The MRI is a magnetic radio,” Goldblatt said. “If you have outside TVs and cellphones, there’s interference and it shows up on the images. So, we have to line everything with copper.”

While the MRI does not use harmful ionizing radiation, other machines do, such as the new CT scanner they recently installed.

“But it’s less-dose radiation,” Goldblatt said. “Everything we’re doing is trying to get less-dose radiation, because the standards are being changed. Everything we do we’re trying to make patient safety important.”

Other new changes to the department include new entertainment options for longer tests, including new entertainment systems and skylights for comfort, new air conditioning to keep heat radiated by the new machines down and new flooring and cabinetry.

“We like the rooms to be comfortable for the patients,” Goldblatt said.

PeaceHealth is also looking to expand the hours of the radiology department, with the hope that patients can get tested the same day as their visit.

“The walk-in clinic is open until 7 p.m. on the weekends, and we would like to mirror those hours, too, to make it more streamlined,” Goldblatt said.

This will allow the radiology technicians to see more patients, which can total 100 a day.

“We have about eight MRIs a day, 15 CTs, 12 mammograms and about 20 ultrasounds. You do the math. It adds up quick,” he said. “Then, for individual X-rays in the ER, they can see up to 40 patients a day. We’re almost fully staffed in the clinic, so we’re getting patients over. The amount of wait time, and to get called back, has significantly been reduced. We anticipate being able to see more paints in a day because everything is faster, and we don’t want patients to wait.”

With expanded hours and new technology that was previously unavailable, Goldblatt expects that patients will not have to travel out of town for as many procedures.

“It’s hard when, in the winter time, you have to go over to get a scan,” he said. “We can’t do everything, but we can increase the amount of studies we can do. You don’t have to come back for follow up, and it saves stress.”

While the $6 million price tag for the remodel is high, the project is not expected to increase patient service bills. The funds come from a system-wide capital budget, which funds yearly specialized projects in PeaceHealth’s institutions.

“We’re a non-profit organization, so we have to invest any money we make back into the system,” Goldblatt said. “The money is something we already have, so there won’t be any money or price changes. Everything we’re buying is high end, nothing low end. Our patients deserve it.”

Related article: Vital Signs: How Mobile Integrated Healthcare keep patients thriving and out of repeat visits to the ER 

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