- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 12, 2004

When a patient in Altoona, Pa., needs an emergency brain scan in the middle of the night, a doctor in Bangalore, India, is asked to interpret the results.

Spurred by a shortage of U.S. radiologists and an exploding demand for more sophisticated scans to diagnose scores of ailments, doctors at Altoona Hospital and dozens of other U.S. hospitals are finding benefits to outsourcing medical work offshore.

In the past few years, the number of nighttime emergency cases was swamping Altoona’s seven radiologists.

“All of a sudden, somebody was waking up all night to cover all this extra work,” said radiologist Dr. Richard Wertz. And although that doctor was groggy, “we didn’t have the luxury of that guy taking the next day off.”

Using radiologists halfway across the world where it’s daytime “solves that problem for us,” Dr. Wertz said.

It is part of the growing tele-medicine trend, with technology enabling the speedy transfer of medical data over the Internet to virtually anywhere there’s a compatible computer. That means radiologists in Australia, India, Israel and Lebanon are reading scans on U.S. patients. Most are designed to take advantage of the time difference.

Advocates say offshore radiology is nothing like the nightmarish vision of seedy sweatshops stealing U.S. jobs and replacing them with unqualified cheap labor. Most of the doctors are U.S.-trained and licensed.

Altoona is one of about 40 hospitals using the services of Dr. Arjun Kalyanpur. A U.S.-licensed and credentialed radiologist, he got his postgraduate training at Yale University and runs a respected two-man service from Bangalore called Teleradiology Solutions.

Images of U.S. patients’ radiology scans are sent over the Internet to the Bangalore office. Radiologists there review the images, offer preliminary diagnoses and fax back written reports — usually within about 30 minutes, Dr. Kalyanpur said.

“When Kalyanpur takes over, we all can get some sleep and really won’t be tired the next day,” Dr. Wertz said.

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