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News Release    

July 31, 2003

Steinhaus Announces New Electronic Emergency Room System
to Protect Against Bioterror Diseases

Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus announced today at St. Francis Hospital new software that will significantly enhance the capabilities of local hospital emergency rooms to detect possible instances of bioterrorism.

The system, a bioterror and medical diagnostic computer system known as VisualDx, helps to differentiate between bioterrorism and common rashes. Developed over a 7-year period by Logical Images, Inc., VisualDx is already in use by the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) bioterrorism response teams.

The Dutchess County Department of Health, in collaboration with the Rochester based firm, Logical Images, Inc. worked to develop a proposal for funding from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) for installation of this computer hardware and software in the emergency rooms of all three hospitals in Dutchess County (Vassar Medical Center, St. Francis Hospital and Northern Dutchess Hospital). The system has also been set up in the County Health Department's Clinic at 387 Main Street, Poughkeepsie.

In making the announcement, County Executive Steinhaus stated, "Dutchess County has had long-term response plans and operational procedures in place that we constantly update. Since the event of September 11th we have been even more proactive. We will continue to improve our community's ability to prevent acts of terrorism and to mitigate their impacts through surveillance and early detection. The implementation of this system to aid physicians in quickly and accurately diagnosing potential lethal and infectious diseases is a major step in protecting our community and it puts Dutchess in the forefront in the fight against terrorism."

Steinhaus added, "Though the system has been licensed to individual hospitals and physicians for over two years, Dutchess County is the first county Health Department to license the system for doctors in an entire emergency response region."

The software system allows hospital emergency department clinicians throughout Dutchess County to enter a patient's symptoms and other findings and instantly access thousands of medical photographs and critical diagnostic and therapeutic information for all relevant conditions. By comparing images of all the possible diagnoses and drilling down to see further images of the variations in each disease's presentation the clinician is armed with the information needed to diagnose what he or she may never have seen before.

Dr. Michael Caldwell, Dutchess County's Commissioner of Health said, "The immediate recognition of rare and unusual diagnoses is the key to early detection of a possible bioterrorist event. This deployment is an example of bringing public health directly to the place of patient care. Thanks to the early and committed support to this cutting edge project County Executive Steinhaus, Dutchess County is now supporting our medical professionals with the necessary tools of preparedness. This deployment improves our readiness for a rare event but also supports our doctors abilities with tools to diagnose more common diseases of public health concern."

"The ability to diagnose visually is difficult for the non-expert," said Dr. Art Papier, a dermatologist at the University of Rochester and Chief Scientific Officer of Logical Images. "Emergency Room clinicians simply do not have enough training in how to diagnose unusual rashes and variants of normal rashes. With this system, we are using the latest technologies to augment physician expertise. The significance of the system is that it assists with the common diagnoses as well as the hopefully one in a million or never, bioterror diagnosis," said Dr. Papier.

Dr. Craig VanRoekens, Director of Emergency Medicine for Vassar Medical Center in Poughkeepsie said, "As a result of this software, Dutchess County Emergency Departments offer the most modern and highest level of care to not only potential bioterrorist cases but to all patients, young and old, presenting with a rash. At Vassar, we have used this multiple times already to best care for patients with unusual skin lesions. This is a great example of cooperation: technology, healthcare and local government, all working together to improve public health and safety in Dutchess County. Vassar Medical Center enthusiastically supports this project and the leadership of County Executive Steinhaus and Commissioner Caldwell."

Dr. John Sabia, Director of Northern Dutchess Hospital's Emergency Department stated that the VisualDx software was, "A great reference tool with quick access to necessary data. We are really excited about it. It has been very beneficial with identifying various types of skin rashes and it is great to know that we have it available when, God forbid, we might really need it. Our community hospitals and our community's physicians commend the County Executive and the Commissioner of Health for their foresight in bringing this resource to Dutchess County."

A randomized controlled University of Rochester based study showed that clinicians using the software increased diagnostic accuracy 100%. The VisualDx system also addresses many other diseases of interest to public health, including adverse reactions to smallpox vaccination, 20 reportable infectious diseases, emerging infections, STDs and common dermatological conditions.

"The emergence of monkeypox in our country highlights the need for having a tool like VisualDx," said Dr. Caldwell. "Early recognition is key to saving lives. With VisualDx deployed throughout the Dutchess County emergency system our clinicians have 24/7 access to the most current diagnostic and therapeutic information available."

County Executive Steinhaus emphasized, "Our excellent community preparedness for all types of emergencies depends greatly on many key agencies and organizations; our medical community, our hospitals, public health professionals and law enforcement and of course, our Emergency Response Department."


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