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It’s a Dog’s Life: High Tech Medical Imaging for Pets


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Prepping for surgery

Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service, located just outside Birmingham in the UK, has just treated its 10,000th patient, since relocating to all new state-of-the-art premises. The hospital, now in its second year of operation, is one of the leading small veterinary centers in Europe and boasts some of the most advanced medical and diagnostic imaging technology available.

The designed-for-purpose facility, with its high-tech equipment and patient-focused design, would be the envy of many a new private hospital for humans, but Willows is dedicated to the care of animals whose owners want the best for their much-loved pets.

In 2009, veterinary surgeons and practice partners Peter Renwick and Malcom McKee opened the doors to their £10 million state-of-the-art referral center. It includes a 1.5 Tesla MRI and a 16-slice CT scanner from GE Healthcare, as well as a digital picture archiving and communication system (PACS), GE Healthcare ultrasound and X-ray imaging technology.

Cutting-edge imaging technology

Access to cutting-edge imaging technology with superb image quality significantly improves vets’ ability to diagnose and treat their patients.  Many of the patients being imaged are small which can place great demands on both equipment and staff. 

“We were delighted with the image quality from our various GE Healthcare machines,” says Peter Renwick. ”This, along other considerations such as customer care, service and reliability, led us to choose GE Healthcare to supply and install all our imaging equipment.”

Willows is a leading centre of innovation in veterinary medicine and recently performed the first canine knee replacement in Europe, with services including orthopedics, spinal surgery, neurology, ophthalmology, soft tissue surgery, internal medicine, imaging, anesthesia and critical care.

Better care through patient-focused design and communication

"Our aim from the outset has been to provide the highest level of care and well-being for our patients and their owners,” Peter says. “In planning our new hospital we were completely focused on keeping this goal uppermost. Commitment to excellence has influenced premises layout, the high-quality finish we specified and the equally high-quality, cutting-edge equipment we installed.”

This design ethos is apparent everywhere in the center: consulting rooms’ layout encourages face-to-face communication and eye-contact with pet owners; most doors release automatically, prompted by staff RFID- badges; open spaces, corridors, treatment rooms, and reception are clutter-free and near paperless thanks to bespoke electronic communication systems that display patient information and staff messages on screens throughout the facility.

Good design is also central to Willows attracting some of the best veterinary talent in the country.  “The provision of such a high-profile, highly-specified small animal hospital has enabled us to appoint and retain a highly motivated and gifted team, including some of the UK's most talented and respected specialists in the various disciplines we offer," Peter says.  "The centre employs more than 100 staff, and good communication is one of the major design objectives. We believe that only through excellent communication can efficiency and excellent patient care be delivered.” 

As well as the strategically placed screens around the practice for its bespoke online messaging system, Willows also tracks all hospitalized patients on another bespoke web-based application. Every animal is tracked from time of admission, through imaging and surgery, recovery and discharge. These systems have had a significant impact on efficiency and effectiveness and have proven invaluable and totally complementary to the center’s high-tech approach to veterinary medicine and surgery.