Phoebe to usher in new imaging technology

ALBANY -- Forty years ago, the imaging technology available to hospitals consisted primarily of X-ray. Now, doctors have more advanced technology at their fingertips in order to perform diagnostic work more efficiently.

At the Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital board meeting Wednesday, Dr. Suresh Lakhanpal, the hospital's medical director of radiology, gave an update on the technology's advancements and briefed the board on equipment upgrades coming soon to Phoebe.

"It's so good everyone wants to do it," Lakhanpal said of the technology.

There are two scanners coming to Phoebe's main campus later in the year. One is a wide-bore, 16-slice scanner model. It has an 80-centimeter bore, and can accommodate 500 pounds.

"It gives more room to work with patients," Lakhanpal said.

The device will be installed in March. Another technology upgrade will include a 64-slice model to allow for what hospital officials described as state-of-the-art vascular imaging capability.

"The goal with vascular imaging is that diagnostic evaluation can be done uninvasively," Lakhanpal explained.

Lakhanpal added that imaging technology has been a big investment for the health system overall, and that it has benefited the overall quality of care.

"The health system has made a tremendous investment," he said. "Part of our job is to not spend the health system's money unwisely. We try to get the best equipment possible.

In his presentation to the board, Lakhanpal also addressed controversy regarding the technology's use -- mainly through claims that the radiation exposure carries an increased cancer risk.

"There has not been a direct link shown between (imaging studies) and cancer," he said. "We know CTs are beneficial; they are good for patients.

"We try to (update accreditation) on scanners and follow dose recommendations for adults and pediatric patients. We are constantly, in our department, re-evaluating guidelines and making systemwide changes."

In other news, Bob LaGesse, senior vice president of physician practices at Phoebe, informed the board on the rebirth of the hospital's behavioral health department.

As part of a restructuring effort, the hospital contracted Diamond Health Care to help get things back up and running. So far, it appears to have paid dividends.

"They have far exceeded what we expected them to do at this point," LaGesse said. "The acquisition of the management company has made a world of difference."

There are currently three psychiatrists on staff at Phoebe, two of whom were hired late last year. Officials are looking at possibly adding two more positions as part of an effort that LaGesse said would allow behavioral health services to develop a more structured outpatient program.

"The patients will get more targeted service," he said.

There are two more behavioral health units opening up later in the year.

Delays have postponed their opening dates, but hospital officials

estimate that both should be fully functional by April.

The department was in doldrums while there was only one psychiatrist on staff, but due to recent developments, LaGesse is confident things are finally moving forward.

"A command decision was made to close the inpatient unit and focus on outpatient services (when there was only one psychiatrist on staff)," he said. "(With recent improvements), we believe the community will be much better served. This a huge step forward."