CTs, MRIs Without the Expense, with All the Comforts of Family

Lexington Diagnostic Dr. Jason HarrisWhen something mysterious or unknown is happening with your health, it’s entirely natural to be worried. You want to know, as soon as possible, what’s going on, if it can be fixed, how long it will take to get better, and how much it will cost.

Often, diagnostic testing will be ordered: A CT scan, an MRI, or an ultrasound to diagnose and, on occasion, follow-up exams to evaluate treatment. Lexington Diagnostic Center and Open MRI specializes in diagnostic imaging … and anxiety reduction. That’s because imaging exams at LDC are considerably less expensive than the hospital. And, LDC patients always know – up front – what testing is going to cost. There are no hidden fees or surprise bills that arrive weeks or months later.

Price transparency is one part of Lexington Diagnostic Center’s tradition of treating patients like family.

“We are such a family here at Lexington Diagnostic Center,” said radiologist Jason Harris, M.D., who joined the center in 2012. “We have the best trained team, a strong commitment to quality, and a tremendous focus on doing the right thing for our patients,” he said.

His commitment to the LDC family is so strong, in fact, that he recently purchased the facility – the only locally owned imaging facility in Lexington –  from retiring founder George Privett, M.D.

Being a part of Lexington Diagnostic Center allows Dr. Harris to do what he loves most: Make a difference in peoples’ lives. “Every morning, when I come to work, before I start, I spend a few minutes thinking about what I am doing. With each study I read, I remind myself this study represents a person, somebody with a life and a family.

“I try to think of each one as a member of my family, as someone I know. Thinking this way motivates me to give it my absolute best each time,” he said.

The desire to give his best to his patients led Dr. Harris to study radiology at two of the best radiology programs in the United States. His radiology residency was completed at the University of Cincinnati, a world-renown center for neuroradiology. Following five years of residency at UC, Dr. Harris did a fellowship in musculoskeletal radiology at the Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.

“Doing the fellowship required a lot of sacrifice,” Dr. Harris said, “but I absolutely feel it was worth it. Having that additional training and experience has enhanced my practice immensely. It allows me to offer more and higher quality care to patients here at the Center.” The fellowship focused on diagnosing and treating conditions affecting the bones, joints, connective tissues, muscles and spine, including image-guided biopsies and joint injections.

Because of this additional training, Dr. Harris sometimes finds himself performing joint injections and other treatments. This direct interaction is something he enjoys. “Every doctor in practice today woke up one morning and said to themselves, ‘I want to be a doctor, I want to help people,’” he noted. That is, ultimately, what medicine is all about.

As Lexington Diagnostic Center’s new owner, Dr. Harris is committed to carrying on the center’s tradition of helping people by providing the highest level of quality and service, saving them money on their exams.

It’s an important point. Medical costs continue to rise and hospital-based services have grown even more expensive. As a result, free-standing, independent facilities like Lexington Diagnostic Center have a larger role to play in providing patients with affordable, high-quality services. LDC can save patients money because all they do is imaging. There is no hospital overhead – laundry, meal services, ER team, administration.

Those additional expenses force hospitals to charge up to six times as much for the same exam. Because patients are often responsible for 20 to 50 percent of allowed charges, this often results in more cost for the patient.

“We don’t do everything a hospital does. We do imaging. And we do it well. And we save patients money,” Dr. Harris said.

PACS Portal System Offers Quality, Security, Accessibility

Lexington Diagnostic Center’s PACS Portal System Offers Quality

They were pictures of first birthdays, graduations, vacations, home renovations, the dog catching a Frisbee … things that mattered to you in the moment. You likely shared a good number of them on Instagram or Facebook, but at least half of the photos you took were never printed or backed up.

Five years from now, you will be lucky if you can find that photo of little William destroying his first birthday cake. Even if you can, there is no guarantee the technology will be compatible.

So imagine the headache it would be if you took tens of thousands of images every year, could never delete them, and lives depended upon them being accessible a moment’s notice.

Welcome to the world of medical imaging.
Imaging studies – X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, etc. – are the lifeblood of modern medicine. Millions of diagnostic studies are performed in the U.S. each year, generating multiple images, each of which must be reviewed by a radiologist (the physician who specializes in interpreting medical images); permanently stored; and made accessible to the healthcare provider responsible for the patient’s care. All of this has to be available not just today, but for months and years into the future, and not just in Lexington, but anywhere the patient might seek care.

The system that makes all of this possible is called PACS – Picture Archiving and Communications System. Since 1996, Lexington Diagnostic Center and Open MRI has been on the forefront of adopting digital imaging and using PACS to ensure imaging studies are accessible, when needed, wherever needed.

Tim Valenta, IT manager at Lexington Diagnostic Center, is responsible for ensuring all is well with the PACS system. “Many people are relying on the images we capture at Lexington Diagnostic Center to make important decisions about treatment, and those images have to be available to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Valenta said. “It’s a responsibility I take very seriously.”

PACS is about more than just storing images and radiologists’ reports, Valenta notes. Digital imaging and PACS have led to improvements in diagnosis and treatment, patient outcomes, speed, convenience and much more.

“It’s rather like the difference between a bicycle and a motorcycle,” Valenta said. Both will get you to where you need to go, but the motorcycle will get you there faster, with a lot less effort. Gone are the plates, films and chemicals needed to process the film. Gone are the dusty film storage rooms and cumbersome retrieval methods. Today, referring physicians can retrieve a patient’s study quickly over a secure Internet connection and patients leave LDC with a disc containing all of the images from their study.

Quality has improved, too. Just like the photos you take with your iPhone, sophisticated software allows the digital images to be enhanced. The radiologist can zoom in for a closer look at a particular segment of the image; change the brightness and contrast; take accurate measurements of structures; and, depending on the imaging modality, add color or create three-dimensional images.

“All of this has led to great improvements in the ability to detect changes indicative of disease or injury,” Valenta noted. Lexington Diagnostic Center began archiving its studies digitally in 1996, ensuring continuity from then to now.

The format used to store these medical images is called DICOM (Digital Imaging Communications in Medicine). The DICOM standard ensures that images captured at Lexington Diagnostic Center can be viewed at nearly any healthcare facility anywhere in the world, including a hospital in Lexington, Myrtle Beach or even London, England.

This is reassuring for patients who travel a lot or who winter in another part of the country, Valenta noted, because patients know should something happen with their health, prior imaging studies are only a few clicks away via our secure provider portal.

Accessible … yet very secure
Keeping health information accessible to those who have a legitimate need to access it, and safe from those who do not – is a top priority at Lexington Diagnostic Center, Valenta said.

A U.S. Navy Veteran who served as an electronics technician aboard a nuclear sub, Valenta knows about security. “Our systems are top-notch,” he said. “The internal network is constantly audited access restricted to only those people who need to have access to provide care to that particular patient at that particular moment.”

Referring physicians and providers can access imaging studies only through LDC’s secure provider portal and only after being granted access. Lexington Diagnostic meets both federal HIPAA and HIM guidelines, Valenta noted.

It is a big responsibility, but one that the entire staff at Lexington Diagnostic Center takes to heart. “Every single member of our team is committed not only to providing the highest quality of imaging studies, but to protecting our patients’ privacy and health information,” Valenta noted.

Terms to Know
PACS – Picture Archiving and Communication Systems. The platform for storing and communicating digital images within a radiology practice, department or hospital.

DICOM – Digital Imaging Communications in Medicine. The “language” used to store and communicate medical images.

EHR/EMR – Electronic Health/Medical Record. The “electronic file” that contains all of a patient’s health information, including outpatient tests and treatments, office visits, hospitalizations, etc.

HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The federal law, passed in 1996, that both ensures that people are able to acquire health insurance as they change jobs (portability) regardless of existing medical conditions and protects the privacy of their health information. HIPAA established national standards for electronic healthcare transactions.

PHI – Personal Health Information or Protected Health Information. The information identified by the federal government to protected from unauthorized disclosure.

HIM – Health Information Management – The process of acquiring, analyzing and protecting digital and traditional medical information vital to providing quality patient care.

Meet Tim Valenta
The IT manager at Lexington Diagnostic Center and Open MRI, Tim Valenta is a native of Minneapolis, Minn. He joined the U.S. Navy after graduating high school in American Fork, Utah and served six years aboard a nuclear submarine as an electronics technician.

Upon returning home, Valenta served 18 months as a missionary in Argentina. Prior to joining Lexington Diagnostic Center in 1995, Valenta worked for Unisys Corp. and with Fonar, one of the first manufacturers of MRI systems in the U.S.

Today, Valenta is responsible for designing and maintaining Lexington Diagnostic Center’s information technology network, computer systems, communications equipment, and PACS system. He also provides custom programming solutions to improve workflow at LDC. He has more than 30 years experience with electronics and computer systems.

Lexington Diagnostic Center offers High-Field MRI, Open MRI, CT, Ultrasound, X-ray, Nuclear Medicine, DEXA, and image-guided joint and epidural injections.