Medical imaging plays such an important role in the diagnosis of almost all illnesses. It's not just broken bones, screening for mammography, or visualizing babies during pregnancy," says Rhonda Makoske, director of medical imaging at Columbia Memorial Health. "There's hardly an inpatient or emergency department patient that we don't touch."
In recent years, Columbia Memorial Health has significantly increased access to state-of-the-art medical imaging technology like an open MRI, 3D mammography, digital X-rays, and even portable ultrasound machines that played a vital role in the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 patients this spring. Thanks to Columbia Memorial Health's affiliation with Albany Med, patients in Columbia and Greene counties now have the benefit of high-tech medical imaging in the community and access to a highly trained network of specialists to interpret their results.
Since Columbia Memorial Health and Albany Med use the same imaging system, interpreting radiologists in the system now have access to diagnostic images taken in the local community from anywhere. "In the past, we would perform an exam and the patient would then be referred to a specialist or higher level of care and they would not have access to the patient's imaging exam," says Makoske. "Having CMH and Albany Med on an enterprise PACS (picture archiving and communication system) really reduces fragmentation of care."
Columbia Memorial Health's medical imaging services are available to patients in Columbia and Greene counties at three locations—the hospital in Hudson, Catskill-based Greene Medical Imaging, and Valatie Medical Imaging. According to Makoske, access to an open MRI at Greene Medical Imaging is particularly important. "We're the only true open MRI in the area," she says.
In contrast to a closed MRI, an open MRI allows a patient to lie comfortably on an easily accessed open table. It's the perfect solution for patients with claustrophobia, children, and individuals whose weight might otherwise prevent the use of an enclosed machine.
"The thing I'm most proud of is that we have 3D mammography in all three locations," says Makoske. "That's the gold standard of breast cancer screening and detection." The advanced technology generates a three-dimensional picture of the breast, which gives providers a more complete view of tissue than conventional 2D mammograms. In addition to 3D mammography, Columbia Memorial Health also has minimally invasive 3D breast biopsy technology that allows physicians to precisely sample abnormalities identified at the time of the 3D mammogram. Access to these technologies provides patients with the peace of mind that earlier detection of breast cancer can provide.
On-site access to a CT scanner has also played a pivotal role in Columbia Memorial Health's emergency department. "It is really important to the community that we're able to get a CT scan done and diagnose a stroke quickly, often within 45 mins of the time the patient arrives," Makoske says. And if a stroke patient needs a more specialized level of care, their medical imaging files are readily available to the wider network.
Rural communities like those in Columbia and Greene counties haven't always had expedient access to medical care. By strategically working to create a system that links together accessible local technology and services with a wider network of specialist care, Columbia Memorial Health is helping to bridge that gap.