It's the middle of the night when you suddenly awaken with an excruciating headache and numbness on the left side of your body. An ambulance rushes you...
AKRON, Ohio — It’s the middle of the night when you suddenly awaken with an excruciating headache and numbness on the left side of your body.
An ambulance rushes you to the nearest emergency room, where you are whisked away for a CT scan of your brain to determine whether you’re suffering from a stroke.
Who reads the results?
Not necessarily a doctor in the same hospital — or even the same state or country.
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A new field known as “teleradiology” has been evolving in recent years to provide around-the-clock access to radiologists who may be hundreds or thousands of miles away.
By using sophisticated broadband transmission, teleradiology companies send tests from hospitals or imaging centers to secure Internet sites, where radiologists anywhere can view them and prepare a report in minutes.
Aris Teleradiology in Hudson, Ohio, is the one of the latest additions to the burgeoning field.
Aris employs and contracts with radiologists in Las Vegas, California, Detroit, Chicago and other areas in the United States — as well as one in Israel — to interpret tests and provide reports within 30 minutes.
Teleradiology helps address a national shortage of radiologists, which makes it difficult for many smaller hospitals to staff their facilities after hours or to recruit subspecialists, said Dr. Malay Mody, an Akron radiologist and medical director for Aris.
The result, proponents say, is quicker and better test results for patients.
“The teleradiologist provides additional manpower in the sense that if you have hospitals that are in underserved areas and it’s hard to get radiologists to live there; it brings manpower to these underserved areas,” Mody said. “… Through teleradiology, that study gets sent to an expert and they get an expert reading back.”
Mody is among 29 radiologists in Akron Radiology, which has a 35 percent stake in Aris. Summa Health System in Akron is the majority owner, with 65 percent. Aris has invested more than $1.5 million in the technology to launch the business, company president Carl Kozlowski said.
The venture’s first client is WRH Health System in Wadsworth, Ohio, which uses Aris Teleradiology to read images from a hospital from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily, when no full-time radiologists are on site, Kozlowski said.
The recent growth in teleradiology prompted the American College of Radiology to study the trend several years ago and issue recommendations.
Much of the concern centers on the use of overseas radiologists to interpret tests done in U.S. facilities.
Medicare and many private health insurers pay only for reports from doctors on U.S. soil.
But to get around that requirement, some teleradiology businesses use overseas radiologists to provide a “preliminary report” to clients who need after-hours interpretation of images. A U.S. radiologist then issues the “final report” during business hours.
To help radiology groups in the United States cover overnight shifts, Aris plans to open a location in Hawaii.
Akron already has an office in Hawaii that its doctors use to view tests via a secure Internet connection from three Ohio hospitals from midnight to 7 a.m. Because of the six-hour time difference, doctors in Hawaii are not working in the middle of the night.
The doctors take turns working in Hawaii for two weeks — a perk that can help recruit radiologists.
And, Mody added, “the patients benefit because it’s being done by somebody who’s fully awake.”