New technology connects rural patients

A new technology to help and benefit the patient
New technology connects rural patients

With radiologists usually needing to go into a hospital to read and diagnose scans or X-rays, it can make the diagnosis a long, tedious process. This can leave patients worried or concerned about the state of their health or can even prolong their pain. But things are changing because of new software technology that has been developed by diagnostics solution provider IntriHealth. Earlier this week, The Star met with IntriHealth chief executive Mike Simpson and his team, who created a way for radiologists and medical practitioners to read and diagnose X-rays, CT scans and even angiograms with the click of a button. IntriHealth chief information officer Christoph Coetzee explained how the device works.

“You, the patient, have your scan. The scan is then put into our server and from there, the doctor or radiologist can remotely access those scans from their laptop, tablet or mobile device,” Coetzee said.
With medical imaging being incredibly large in size, the software does an 800 percent compression of the imaging to make loading faster but the quality is not affected in any way and the image details are extremely high quality.

The biggest advantage for this technology is what it can do for rural communities. “With the shortage of radiologists around Africa, imaging centres are at a backlog with reading imaging and diagnosing patients. This system will allow doctors from here, the US or Europe to read the scans and make a diagnosis at any given time depending on what the patient chooses.” He said there was an imaging centre which had been established in Namibia that sent medical imaging to radiologists in South Africa through this system.

Doctors here then read and diagnose the medical images and are able to send medical reports to the patient’s doctor in Namibia. With regards to security and privacy, IntriHealth has a strict and intricate security system and policy. Coetzee said doctors and radiologists were given passwords by IntriHealth and they were only able to access their own patients. There is also a high level of inscriptions placed on the server stopping anyone from reading.

“However, we do have a system where a doctor who is at a trauma scene and needs a specialist’s opinion can temporarily add the specialist into the viewer so he or she can help come up with a diagnosis. The name of the patient is kept anonymous, which keeps to the boundaries of doctor-patient,” he added.
Other benefits include patients being able to get a second opinion from another doctor on a diagnosis without having to be rescanned or paying out of their pocket if medical aid refuses to pay. “The patient communicates with us and gives their consent which then allows us to give the doctor access to the patient’s records,” he said.
Simpson said there was a small fee charged to the patient for this service, ‘but it’s much cheaper than paying out of your pocket to be rescanned and rechecked. It’s incredibly cost-effective’.

“Right now the software is installed in a number of private hospitals around the country but we will hopefully expand it to government and teaching hospitals. Our ultimate aim with this new technology is to help and benefit the patient.”

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