As the nation’s largest public health service, NYC Health + Hospitals is something of a medical marvel. Its 70 locations — 11 hospitals, as well as other facilities, such as community health clinics, nursing homes and trauma centers — cover New York City’s five boroughs like a fine-mesh safety net. Many of the 1 million patients who visit each year are new to the United States. Some are homeless or incarcerated. These facts continue to amaze Dr. Michael Ambrosino, even after 37 years of working there. “We take care of people who have nowhere else to go,” says Ambrosino, who serves as chief of radiology at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue.
Despite his deep pride in NYC Health + Hospitals, Ambrosino is keenly aware of its challenges. Currently, when a trauma doctor at NYC Health + Hospital/Coney Island wants to discuss a brain CT scan with a peer in neurosurgery at NYC Health + Hospital/Bellevue, the trauma staff must describe what they see over the phone or rush the patient in an ambulance up to Manhattan. Even armed with a copy of the scan, the Bellevue surgeons are at a disadvantage, says Ambrosino. “They still don’t always make the right choice because they do not have all the information.”
That’s because finding the right diagnosis quickly requires doctors to understand the clinical facts clearly, Ambrosino says. Variations in the scans and verbal accounts, both imprecise and inefficient, make it difficult to make these critical decisions on the spot.
Luckily, the doctors at NYC Health + Hospitals are about to get on the same page — or, rather, screen. This fall, NYC Health + Hospitals entered into a $224 million agreement with GE Healthcare to replace imaging equipment across its entire system over the next 10 years, creating a standardized radiology experience for the organization and patients citywide. Now, neurosurgeons at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue will be able to determine whether that head trauma patient at NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island requires an operation with more confidence by flicking on their computer screen and viewing a CT scan that is consistent with what their colleagues across the system see.
The makeover, which is already underway, will equip NYC Health + Hospitals with 230 medical imaging machines — including MRI, CT, PET, X-ray and imaging technology used during surgical procedures — over the next four years. By standardizing the equipment across the system, uniform methodology and scan outputs will help ensure that an abdominal CT scan taken at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue will be identical to one from NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island. This continuity enables doctors to make faster, more accurate diagnoses. “Our most fragile patients are going to have the most modern imaging technology available in the United States,” Ambrosino says. “That is saying a lot.”
To get the most out of that cutting-edge technology, GE Healthcare has begun training clinicians and technicians to master newer capabilities, like using low-dose radiation imaging, and manipulating scan data to get relevant analysis, capturing clearer images of a beating heart.
To Ambrosino, upgrading to the new technology makes perfect sense. “Good medicine used to mean bringing your black bag to the patient’s home and holding his or her hand and giving them whatever relief you can because you couldn’t do very much,” Ambrosino says. “Bringing this level of technology to the people who society has almost forgotten is very satisfying.”