Thus far, my columns on PACS have been written to support administration, radiology, and information technology personnel in their efforts to evaluate, purchase, and implement PACS projects and technology. This month, I am compelled to write from a personal perspective?about being a person who does not work directly with providing healthcare but works in and around hospitals and other healthcare-delivery facilities. Sometimes during our normal routines, we forget what it is like to be a consumer of healthcare at these facilities. Having had one of my sons diagnosed with leukemia in 1998 at the age of 3 (which, thankfully, is still in remission), I would have thought that I would not ever forget. However, every once in a while, life tends to make me sit up and again be reminded that I am a healthcare consumer.

When working with my clients on their PACS projects, I find myself almost weekly in one or more hospitals, walking through the radiology department, in the exam rooms, file rooms, patient waiting areas, emergency departments, intensive care units (ICUs), cardiac ICUs (CICUs), operating rooms?all of the clinical areas where film is being used and where PACS will soon provide image distribution. The purpose of these walk-throughs is to try to find answers to my clients’ questions, including:

  • Where are we going to place the review stations?
  • Where can we find?or how will we make?space to install these workstations?
  • Where are the network drops, power, etc going to be placed?
  • What is the current workflow, and how will it be changed?
  • Who needs to be trained?

One part of the challenge in trying to find answers to these questions is, of course, that we are in sensitive areas, trying to inconspicuously perform our walk-through and gather data without interrupting the delivery of patient care. Sometimes, we might forget where we are.

This past spring, my hospital visits changed from business to personal. To make a long story short, my in-laws came to California from Wisconsin to visit, as they have done many times in the 7-plus years we have lived in The Golden State. This time, however, much of our time was spent visiting in a hospital rather than in the comfort of our home.

My father-in-law was diagnosed with congenital heart failure about 5 years ago; he has been in and out of the hospital several times in Wisconsin, but never in California. The day after he arrived, he did not feel well. He went to the emergency department and was admitted to the hospital, spending the first of three stays in the CICU. Our family kept trying to render him healthy enough to be able to travel back home. As the gravity of the activities became undeniable, I found I was no longer walking through the previously mentioned hospital departments and/or units thinking about PACS.

Eventually, during his 7-week stay in California before he passed away on July 2, he ended up spending 38 nights in many of the same units where I had walked through, emotionally detached from why patients were there. During this time, I was reminded that, for most people, going to the hospital is usually a serious and somber event for family, friends, and loved ones. This reality was especially true for us when it became clear that, without a miracle, my father-in-law was not going to return home ever again. Those were and still are the most painful days of my life.

Carl Dentice and his son-in-law, Michael Mack.
Carl Dentice and his son-in-law, Michael Mack.

Recently, I was back in hospitals for the first time after my father-in-law’s passing, and as I walked through the clinical areas, what I saw was very different from what I had seen before. I noticed the rooms, beds, nurses, physicians, and visitors. It brought back all of my feelings, the sorrow, and the grief. I also began to feel for the patients and their families, who either were dealing or had dealt with the pain that the loss of a loved one brings. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of where we are.

So, when we?as vendors, consultants, researchers, and the like?perform our activities, I believe it is important at times to just take a moment to reflect and be aware of the environment around us, respect the work being done, and send our prayers to the patients and families who we see. Most times, the treatment is effective, and patients are sent home. However, sometimes we need to remember that the treatment might not always work.

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On a final note, I would like to thank the entire staff at Mission Hospital (Mission Viejo, Calif)?especially Michael A. Rovzar, MD, and Maureen McCallion, RN?for all of their dedicated hard work and personal touch in caring for my father-in-law. It helped to ease our pain, and we know they did everything possible to extend his life for us. They were angels in our darkest hours. In fact, Dr Rovzar phoned my mother-in-law in Wisconsin 4 days later to offer condolences and to see how she was doing?she had been married 51 years to her high school sweetheart. Goodbye, Carl; we miss you!

Michael Mack is VP of business development at the Thomas Group Ltd (Anaheim, Calif). Having more than 20 years of experience in the medical imaging industry, Mack now specializes in PACS planning and implementation.