Thursday, October 28, 2010

How digital technology can mean better care

By Michelle Jones (shown), and Betty Walker, Charge Technologists, Rouge Valley Health System Diagnostic Imaging

Some very exciting things are happening in our Diagnostic Imaging departments at both of our hospital campuses (Rouge Valley Centenary and Rouge Valley Ajax & Pickering). We are so proud to announce that our Breast Screening Clinics at both of our hospital campuses now feature state-of-the-art digital mammography machines. We’re quite privileged and very proud that we can feature this cutting edge technology. This digital equipment can cost up to four times more than film mammography, making it too expensive for many smaller clinics to have in their facilities.

Why is that important? Well, there are a number of different reasons why this so significant for us and all of our patients:

* This improved technology improves our chances of finding breast cancer. Digital imaging is better for women under the age of 50, or young women with denser breasts. Digital technology makes it easier for us to spot breast cancer in these women. Earlier detection and improved treatment can help to save more lives.

* Remember when you would take a photo using film, and wait for days for it to be developed, just to realize that the picture didn’t turn out properly? Well, just like your digital camera where you can quickly preview your photos, when a technologist takes an image of the breast, we’re able to see much sooner if we need to retake the image.

* Since there is no more need for film, the images are available much sooner – usually within seconds. The radiologist can quickly access the images, as there is no longer a need to process films. This means you, the patient, can get your test results much sooner, cutting down on wait times and that anxiety you experience while you wait.

* Since the images can be stored electronically, there’s no need to carry around huge bulky envelopes of film to take to your physician. The images can usually be sent electronically or saved to a CD that you can easily bring to your physician.

* At RVHS, many of our physicians are connected to our Picture Archiving and Communicating System (PACS), allowing digital images to be transferred to them within minutes. So if you had an appointment for a mammogram the same day as your appointment with your physician, it could be ready by the time you see your physician.

* Last but not least, digital imaging requires less radiation than film imaging. This means that we’re giving up to a 50 per cent reduction in dose.

Overall, this new technology means that we’re able to provide our patients with the highest standard of care, something that each staff member, physician and volunteer at RVHS is committed to.
For appointments in our breast imaging centres and all other diagnostic tests, contact our central booking line at 416-281-7299 or toll-free at 1-866-752-6989. Currently, most services require a referral from your family physician. We are currently in the processing of becoming a part of the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP), which will allow patients over 50 to receive a mammogram without a requisition from their family physician.

Learn more about our Diagnostic Imaging program by visiting

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Early detection of breast cancer can save your life....

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Putting meat on the bones of strategic planning

By Rik Ganderton
President and CEO

We’re getting there!

Thanks to your participation in our strategic planning process since last April, we are now able to start putting some meat on the bones of our new strategic plan.

My thanks to all who’ve taken part so far, including staff, physicians, volunteers, community members and political leaders for your thoughts and input on our questions, surveys and many presentations.

All of this input and information was used to produce a comprehensive Current State Analysis Report. The full report and an executive summary are available on our strategic planning web page.

The report examined our current environment in terms of our:
• Programs and services;
• Patient profile;
• Workforce;
• Infrastructure;
• Approach to quality, transformation and organizational culture;
• Community Demographics;
• Inventory of providers in Central East Local Health Integration Network (CE LHIN);
• Provincial and LHIN priorities;
• Internal and external stakeholder feedback; and
• Key trends likely to impact our organization.

- Key findings –

Here are some of the key findings from the Current State Analysis Report.
• We are facing significant growth in the 905 area.
• Patient mix is changing – average age of patients is getting older and have higher levels of acuity and dependency; greater cultural diversity reflective of the catchment area. Scarborough and Durham are becoming more similar from a diversity perspective.
• There is a new normal when it comes to clinical service delivery. The number of inpatients has declined; the vast majority of surgical and diagnostic procedures can now be done on an outpatient basis; throughout the hospital sector, inpatient length of stay has decreased and occupancy rates have increased; alternate level of care (ALC) days are a system issue that create flow challenges for the hospital; there is more transfer activity between hospitals and RVHS is seeing an increase in the patients transferred in to our hospital from other places, particularly for circulatory system conditions.
• Our efforts to align with industry benchmarks have resulted in a higher occupancy rate and a lower average length of stay. But our readmission rates have also declined suggesting that we are making improvements to patient flow without sacrificing quality.
• We need to focus on the patient experience and be cognizant of how the community measures the patient experience; consumer expectations are changing and patients are much better informed on health issues than in the past.
• Regional integration is a priority for the LHIN and health system partners; we need strategies to pick up the pace, maintain momentum and make tangible change; there are many untapped opportunities for regional collaboration – both clinical and non-clinical.
• Emergency department (ED) wait times and ALC management are top priorities at the provincial level and also challenge our ability to provide smooth patient flow.
• There are opportunities to repatriate some of our catchment area residents, who are seeking services at other hospitals; the flow of patients in our catchment area is to the west and RVHS partnerships are in the east.
• Relationships with family physicians in the community are essential and can be improved through better communication mechanisms and easier access.
• Our human resources are our greatest asset; our people share a strong commitment to quality; we need to watch morale levels of staff and physicians.
• Our workforce is aging and we must implement strategies to manage the forecasted potential retirements.
• Operational and cultural transformation are taking shape and yielding tangible improvements; this is an ongoing journey and key to reaping the benefits of increased emphasis on pay for performance.
• The hospital is on the road to financial recovery, but keeping pace with infrastructure maintenance/repairs and advances in technology is an ongoing financial challenge.
• The planning environment is complex with many trends that will impact our hospital, including a provincial election in the fall of 2011.

The current state report findings put us in good shape heading into our strategic planning retreat last weekend. Thanks to the keen engagement of our Board; MAC (medical advisory committee); senior management team; directors; and members of the Strategic Plan Steering Committee, it’s my pleasure to report to you that we now have a new set of draft strategic directions.

- More consultation –

Consultation on the draft directions will begin shortly, in meetings and venues such as, but not limited to:
• RVHS Board meetings – open to the public;
• Meetings of our Community Advisory Group – volunteers who advise the board;
• Community outreach meetings – which we do throughout the year at meetings of service clubs, health care partners, municipal councils and many others;
• Leadership Forum – for management;
• MAC and/or Medical Staff Society meetings – for doctors;
• Town Halls – for all staff, physicians and volunteers; and
Strategic planning web page – for the public.

I look forward to our next blog update on this evolving process. Stay tuned and thanks for your participation.

(- For background, you could read my previous blog on this from July 6, 2010.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

We agree with the government & AG

By Rik Ganderton
President & CEO, RVHS

Rouge Valley fully supports the government’s position and the findings of the Auditor General’s (AG) Report. Rouge Valley no longer uses a lobbyist, as a result of a board decision taken some weeks ago.

As part of the overall transformation of RVHS since 2007 we have taken many steps to improve controls and monitoring in the procurement area including controls over the use of consultants. This included revisions of our policies in 2008 following an external audit that we commissioned and subsequently adopting the Broader Public Sector Policy Guidelines, effective April 2010. We have implemented procurement practices and controls ahead of this present interest in consultants and procurement.

We will continue to pro-actively improve our stewardship of tax dollars to offer the best health care to our communities. We welcome the government’s action on these matters and fully support the directions taken.

* View the AG's Report.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Things are shaping up nicely at RV Ajax & Pickering hospital campus!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why early detection is the best way to beat breast cancer

By Dr. Yun Yee Chow, Radiologist, Rouge Valley Health System (RVHS)

Knowing when you should have a mammogram could save your life.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women. One in nine women will be afflicted with breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. And let’s not forget that one percent of breast cancer cases actually occur in men.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a great opportunity to increase our own awareness about this disease and to learn more about what we can do to reduce our risk of developing it.

The Canadian Association of Radiologists (CAR) recommends that women begin receiving breast screening, usually a mammogram, at age 40, and annually until age 49. Women can be screened every two years if they are between 50 – 69 years of age, unless there is a family history of breast cancer, or if they are receiving hormone replacement therapy. If they are in good health, women should continue to receive regular screenings after age 70.

Despite the increased diagnosis rate of breast cancer, more people are surviving. In 2005, mortality rates dropped to 24% from 32% in 1986. Half of this reduction can be attributed to early screening, and the rest to adjuvant treatment – therapy using drug or radiation after cancer surgery. So, early detection in the prevention and treatment of the disease is key, especially if cancer is detected during a screening.

Remember that lifestyle factors can also play an important role in your risk of developing breast cancer. Here are some of the things you can do to decrease your risk:
• Incorporate a healthier diet into your lifestyle;
• Exercise regularly;
• Maintain a healthy body weight, since estrogen produced from fat can increase the development of breast cancer;
• If you’re a smoker, consider quitting;
• Watch your alcohol consumption, as it has become a well-established risk factor for breast cancer in women.

In addition to self breast examination, you should have a yearly check up with your family physician. They can also give you a full physical exam and review of your medical and family history. Your doctor can give you a requisition for a mammogram, or you can simply head over to an Ontario Breast Screening Centre. In 2011, RVHS will be affiliated with the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) at both of our hospital campuses (Rouge Valley Centenary and Rouge Valley Ajax & Pickering), and will feature Ontario Breast Screening Centres where patients can receive mammograms without a referral.

With the range of state-of-the-art diagnostic testing available at Rouge Valley Health System, including breast screening, quality preventive care is available right in your community. Both of our state-of-the-art Breast Imaging Centres, located at both of our hospital campuses, feature fully digital mammography machines that are able to provide a lower radiation dose to detect abnormalities in the breast tissue, often before they can be felt by the patient. Other imaging modalities include breast ultrasounds and breast MRIs. Minimally invasive breast biopsies are performed using ultrasound guidance, at the bedside, or by mammographically-guided stereotactic breast biopsy.

For appointments in our breast imaging centres and all other diagnostic tests, contact our central booking line at 416-281-7299 or toll-free at 1-866-752-6989. Most services require a referral from your family physician.
We're back in the black:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Want to help improve a person's health, for a living? Here's an excellent place to start:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

MRI: Why an Image is Everything to our community

By Rik Ganderton,
President and CEO

Durham Region has one of the fastest growing populations in Canada, with approximately 600,000 residents and a forecast population of around one million people by 2031 (1).

Population growth also means growth within the dependent demographics of our communities. We have already seen a rise in acute care patients who need a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan, now considered a basic tool that every hospital needs in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and many other diseases and health conditions.

Thankfully, there has also been significant growth in the application of MRI technology to solve clinical problems, and as an emergency tool that can make the difference between life and death.

Currently, the Rouge Valley Ajax and Pickering hospital does not have an MRI. By including an MRI in our new and expanded diagnostic imaging centre, patients who currently are on a long waiting list will be able to stay close to home.

Patients will also receive the gold standard in care from the new MRI, which offers state-of-the-art technology, producing detailed, clear images of the body with no side effects.

We are dedicated to bringing an MRI to the residents of Ajax, Pickering and Whitby through the Image is Everything Campaign, by the Rouge Valley Health System Foundation. Through campaign events, third-party fundraising and a long list of generous partnerships, we have made great progress towards that goal. However, we still need your help.

The community has supported us since our hospital was built in 1954, and we hope you will continue to support us in bringing this modern, state-of-the-art diagnostic technology closer your family, friends and neighbours in west Durham.

So please put yourself in the picture. You can help bring an MRI to your local community hospital by contacting the Foundation at 905-683-2320 x1501.

(1. Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration)