A small team of New York radiologists reaches out to help Haiti the best way they know how.
When Allen Rothpearl, MD, read his first case of a Haitian earthquake victim, it was, as he put it, ?devastating.? The x-ray of an 18-year-old girl revealed seven separate fractures of the pelvis. Since that time, Rothpearl has encountered countless fractures and numerous cases of pneumothorax in babies?all victims of Haiti?s shattering earthquake.
Interestingly, Rothpearl never went to Haiti after the disaster. Rather, he found a way to contribute to the relief effort right here at home. ?When the quake happened, I started thinking about how I could help,? said Rothpearl, CEO of Complete Radiology Reading Services (CRRS) and Jericho Specialty Imaging, based in Long Island, NY. ?It occurred to me that we have all this infrastructure in place for remote reading.?
But Rothpearl wasn?t quite sure who to contact to offer his support. Then he spotted an article about a digital x-ray facility in Haiti that was still standing, thanks to its thick concrete walls. Because the surrounding medical facilities had experienced severe damage, St Damien?s Children?s Hospital in Port au Prince had a drastic influx of patients, an increased volume of x-rays, and a bottleneck of imaging exams that required reads. The hospital desperately needed help, and Rothpearl was ready to donate his time and services from afar. It was a win-win situation.
Rothpearl connected with the IT person at St Damien?s and discussed their technology and their PACS. Viztek?a vendor to both Rothpearl?s practice and St Damien?s?was happy to help. ?We linked our Viztek server to the hospital?s Viztek PACS,? said Rothpearl. Viztek?s support team configured CRRS? network to St Damien?s, allowing for secure and easy access to their database of exams. The manufacturer?s software permitted encrypted transmission to facilitate interpretations by CRRS. While there were some obstacles in the beginning?like very slow Internet access for St Damien?s?Rothpearl says the majority of technical challenges have been solved.
In addition to contributing his own time, Rothpearl has enlisted six other radiologists who read for CRRS to donate their time to read for St Damien?s as well. Since February, the team reads on average 20 to 40 cases a day. ?We automatically treat all of them as stat cases and turn them around within an hour,? said Rothpearl. ?When we spot a really urgent case, we contact the head of the hospital directly via e-mail to alert him.?
Though things have calmed down somewhat in Haiti, Rothpearl says CRRS is planning to support St Damien?s indefinitely. ?The acute period is over, and many emergency doctors and surgeons trained to read x-rays are leaving Haiti and going back home,? said Rothpearl. ?When they?re gone, that?s when our services will really be needed.?
In the wake of the tragedy, the medical imaging community has pulled together and pitched in to help the people of Haiti. Several imaging equipment manufacturers have donated portable ultrasound and mobile x-ray units (see our cover story, ?Shaky Start,? page 18). Medweb donated two PACS servers to the University of Miami/Project Medishare?s 240-bed hospital, which was set up on the tarmac at Port-au-Prince airport.
And then there are radiologists like Allen Rothpearl and his CRRS colleagues. They?re helping everyday, one scan at a time. It may be called ?remote? reading, but their good work brings the people of Haiti and the United States even closer.