Tamil Nadu networks all CT, MRI machines in public hospitals for better healthcare delivery

MRI

Tamil Nadu will become the first State in the country to virtually connect all 58 CT and 18 MRI machines located in different government hospitals in the State. The fully networked teleradiology system will be officially launched in a few weeks. Connecting all CT and MRI machines to a central server will address shortage or absence of radiologists in hospitals and will greatly improve patient care.

Tamil Nadu will become the first State in the country to virtually connect 58 computed tomography (CT) and 18 magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines located in different government hospitals in the State. The fully networked teleradiology system will be officially launched in a few weeks. While doctors and technicians are currently being trained to use the system, a few hospitals have already started using it.

The teleradiology system will allow select images to be uploaded to a central server and radiologists from any of the hospitals that are connected to the network can access the images and give immediate medical opinion. Unlike in the case of medical college hospitals where a radiologist is available round the clock, other government hospitals do not have a radiologist 24 hours or do not have a radiologist at all. Hospitals that do not have a radiologist physically carry the image to a nearby hospital for reporting it.

“Networking all the CT and MRI machines to a central server will make this redundant. It will address shortage or absence of radiologists in hospitals and will greatly improve patient care, particularly road accident victims,” says Dr P. Umanath, Managing Director of Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation Limited (TNMSC). TNSC owns all the imaging machines and the centres housing them.

Installing a picture archiving and communication system (PACS) in every machine is necessary to store and share images with other hospitals. “PACS has already been installed in 50 machines in the State and they are now being networked,” says Sanjeev, Chairman and Managing Director of Bengaluru-based Meddiff Technologies which installed PACS in the machines and is networking them.

As part of networking the machines, a tower for dedicated connectivity has been set up at each hospital to share the images with a central server. “Except for four locations, this work has been completed in the rest of the centres. Once this is done, the images have to be uploaded to the central server and trials have to be conducted before launching it officially,” says Dr. Umanath. The dedicated connectivity between hospitals and the central server will be through a 2 MBPS Internet leased line. Each radiologist will be provided with a laptop with 4G connectivity to enable immediate reporting of images.

To incentivise doctors to report scans uploaded from other hospitals, they will be payed a certain amount, which is yet to be finalised.

Dr. Sumanth Raman who is a healthcare IT professional is excited that the project is all set to be rolled out. “It will significantly help patients as there is shortage of radiologists. Very often there is delay in reporting the scan as there is no radiologist. The networking will completely eliminate this and so in any acute situation it will be life-saving,” says Dr. Raman, who has been one of those pushing for networking of the machines in the State for several years.

According to Mr. Sanjeev, 10 hospitals in Uttar Pradesh and 20 hospitals in Haryana have been similarly networked. Kerala is in the process of implementing it across the State. In the private sector, Columbia Asia chain of hospitals in India has networked 14 hospitals. “Tamil Nadu started it earlier and has done it on a larger scale covering all government hospitals having a CT/MRI machine,” says Mr. Sanjeev.

Published in The Hindu on June 27, 2018

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