FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 26, 2013) -- Lyster Army Health Clinic has teamed up with Eisenhower Army Medical Center's radiology department at Fort Gordon, Ga., to speed the process of clinical interpretation and expand the opportunity for consultation.

LAHC hasn't had a resident radiologist for several years and has relied on a contracted radiologist to read patients' images after hours, said Capt. Melissa Riester, chief of radiology for LAHC.

"Contracting a radiologist to read images after hours was getting the job done, but not in the most expedient or cost efficient manner. Annually, the cost was several hundred thousand dollars per year," she said.

Military treatment facilities often transfer images between each other, such as when a Soldier is moving from one post to another, and many military hospitals already transfer images to civilian organizations when staffing levels at night do not support in-house radiology services.

"The technological groundwork for partnerships like this already existed, so the benefit of leveraging the existing technology to send all our images to Eisenhower is the opportunity to have radiological reads in real-time, and the chance for our providers to get on-the-spot consults and immediate feedback," Riester said.

Eisenhower has a dedicated radiologist of the day who handles only LAHC cases, and has the ability to have any of their radiologists read LAHC's studies as workload permits.

"Our turnaround times for studies are ranging from one to four hours, instead of 12-24 hours, which is great for both patients and providers," she said.

LAHC's radiology department started transferring 50 percent of its workload on July 19 and quickly moved to sending 100 percent by July 24.

The tele-radiology initiative has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from providers. Their feedback compliments the ability to better consult, diagnose and treat patients.

"It is clear that the use of tele-radiology is here to stay and will be patient friendly," Riester said. "Additionally, the economics of this kind of agreement allows for savings of taxpayer dollars, which is critical in these resource constrained times."

Riester anticipates that the current agreement will be indefinite.

"We want to make tele-radiology the standard of access across Army Medicine," she said.

LAHC is submitting this initiative for consideration as an Army Surgeon General Excalibur nomination for care and resource improvement.

"Based on factors like quality and value to the patient, it stands a good chance of winning the award and becoming replicated throughout Army Medicine," she said.

LAHC does not anticipate having a radiologist on site any time soon, but tele-radiology will be a sustainable alternative that will provide excellent service and benefit patients.

Eisenhower is pleased to continue this effort, and lead the Army Medical Department in making this a standard in radiology care and management. The relationship with Eisenhower and LAHC also solidifies relevance of DDEAMC as a consultative institution while they receive workload credit for their efforts.