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Medical imaging dept. at Rice Hospital gets a makeover

The renovation includes the enlargement of the imaging rooms and waiting room, below. When the final phase of renovation is completed in March, there will also be a new waiting area for patients who come in through the emergency room. Tribune photos by Ron Adams

WILLMAR — The imaging department at Rice Memorial Hospital is getting a new look with a two-fold goal: enhancing the patient experience and making the best, most efficient use of technology, from ultrasound to interventional radiology.

Officials say the project, which began this past summer, sets the stage for strengthening the medical imaging services provided by Willmar Medical Services, a joint venture between the hospital and Affiliated Community Medical Centers that owns and operates medical imaging services at both the hospital and ACMC.

“Our whole service line will grow with this project,” said Mike Schramm, chief executive of Rice Hospital.

It’s been more than a decade since the hospital’s imaging department underwent any renovation, and significant changes were due, said Dr. Ronald Holmgren, who is president of both ACMC and Willmar Medical Services.

“Our space needed to be remodeled to make it modern and appealing and efficient,” he said. “It’s been a long-term plan. A lot of effort has been put into getting it right.”

For patients, one of the most visible changes also happens to be the first thing they see. Gone is the former cramped waiting room, replaced with one that’s much more spacious and inviting.

The new waiting room has been getting good reviews, said Sue Rucks, imaging services director. “We’ve had a lot of positive patient comments.”

When the final phase of renovation is completed in March, there will also be a new waiting area for patients who come in through the emergency room. Scattered throughout the department are mini-waiting areas to help with patient flow and lessen the anxiety of long waits.

Less visible to the public, but critical to how the department functions, is a design that centralizes the work flow. A new staff hub was created for issuing orders and managing the daily schedule of exams and procedures.

Locations for ultrasound, fluoroscopy, X-ray and other imaging technologies were assigned with patient care and staff efficiency in mind.

Doctors these days are using CT scans and X-rays more sparingly to reduce the amount of medical radiation that patients are exposed to, and they’re turning more often to other modalities such as ultrasound, Rucks said. “We don’t do all the X-rays we used to. We don’t do all the CT scans we used to.”

The renovation reflects this shift and its impact on staffing and scheduling, she said.

Leaders with Willmar Medical Services are especially excited about the addition of interventional radiology, which expands the number and variety of procedures available locally.

The new interventional radiology suite can be used for procedures such as biopsies as well as more specialized procedures. “There’s some unique things we can do now,” Rucks said.

“We’re keeping some patients in town that would otherwise have gone to St. Cloud,” Schramm agreed.

Holmgren said there’s a regional need for interventional radiology services closer to home. “The referrals are coming in from outside communities, so it’s building slowly,” he said.

The challenge of the renovation was to maximize patient services while supporting both staff efficiency and a comfortable environment for patients, he said. “We wanted an imaging unit that not only is high quality but gives a lot of aesthetic patient satisfaction. I think it accomplishes that.”

Dan Burdett

Dan Burdett is the community content coordinator at the West Central Tribune. He has 13 years experience in print media, to include four years enlisted service in the United States Air Force. He has been an employee of Forum Communications since 2005, joining the company after spending two years as the managing editor of the Redwood Gazette and Livewire in Redwood Falls. Prior to his current position, Dan was the presentation editor at the Tribune.

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