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Posted May 16, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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WMC's new diagnostic center to open Monday

Curtis Thwing
Curtis Thwing, an interventional radiologist, talks to guests Friday about Winchester Medical Center's new diagnostic center. Garren Shipley/Daily

By Garren Shipley -- gshipley@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Winchester Medical Center's new diagnostic center is no doubt centered on high-tech.

But it's also got a good dose of "high touch," too.

Valley Health officials cut the ribbon on the $25 million state-of-the-art facility on Friday morning before showing it off to members of the media and others.

The new outpatient center combines a plethora of diagnostic testing centers under one roof, ranging from simple blood tests to positron emission tomography, or PET, scans.

But it's also designed to give patients a human touch while they're being diagnosed, according to Dan Cameron, Valley Health's corporate director of medical imaging.

Blanket warmers are found in several places where seniors might undergo tests. A warm blanket can make all the difference between a miserable experience and relatively pleasant one, Cameron said.

"We have the high-tech, and the high touch," he said.

Virtually all of the imaging equipment -- from old-fashioned X-rays to the most modern CT scanner -- is connected to a computerized record system.

Gone are the days of waiting for minutes or hours for film to develop to see results.

Now, when a woman comes in for a mammogram the resulting images appear on a screen within seconds. The hospital is also using computers to take a closer look at the results.

Digital technology also means less radiation exposure for patients, according to Cameron.

One measure of quality for radiologists has been the repeat rate, or "how many times did we have to repeat the film?" he said.

"We started doing repeat rates when I got here, and we were under 1 percent," he said. The new technology has made repeat scans or X-rays practically a thing of the past.

Computer-aided diagnostics software looks at the resulting images and points out potential trouble spots to the physician reading the image.

But the "high touch" is also visible.

Hospital officials went to great lengths to make the new facility female-friendly.

From mammograms to ultrasounds and bone-density scans, diagnostic scanning on female patients is done in a dedicated area staffed by female nurses and technicians.

It's all about putting women at ease for what can be very personal, discomforting exams, according to Cameron. That could create significant dividends for the hospital down the line.

"Women are the primary decision-makers when it comes to health care," he said. If women have a good experience with the diagnostic center for a routine scan, they're more likely to bring family members back for other care.

The facility will open to patients on Monday.

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