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
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
"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
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