Health care professionals continue to rely on diagnostic imaging and some would argue it is vital when it comes to obtaining quality outcomes. Advances in technology continue to evolve medical imaging and create more options for clinicians. One imaging modality that continues to provide valuable insights to health care professionals is digital radiography (DR). TechNation quizzed a few insiders to find out the latest on DR and what HTM pros can expect in the future.
The three individuals sharing their insights on DR are RSTI President Dale Cover, Carestream Regional Business Director for X-ray Solutions Cheryl McCarron and Innovatus Imaging Radiography and European Operations Vice President Tracy Schrecengost.
Q: What are some of the newest features in digital radiography facilities should consider when buying new?
Cover: As far as hardware goes, probably the best new feature is panels with Automatic Exposure Detection (AED). Prior to AED, digital panels had to be interfaced to the
X-ray system in one way or another to inform the panel when it is time to integrate the X-ray exposure and to inform the X-ray system when the digital system is ready for acquisition. Now digital panels detect when exposure begins on its own. AED panels are ideal replacements for the outgoing CR technology. On the software side, image processing continues to advance. One example would be image stitching.
McCarron: Cybersecurity is extremely important for all imaging systems. Facilities should look for vendors that proactively update imaging systems with the latest technology to prevent attacks or stolen data. Enhanced imaging software platforms should be considered since image processing algorithms continue to improve. It is important to look for DR systems that feature high-resolution images and easy-to-use software that allow the best images to be captured using the lowest dose. Additional software options can help radiologists detect subtle diseases and conditions.
Schrecengost: Retrofit systems are making it affordable for hospitals and clinics of all sizes to quickly and affordably transition to digital radiography, leveling the playing field between large and small health care facilities. When purchasing retrofit systems, providers should consider workflow efficiencies. Transitioning to DR opens up a whole new world of highly efficient possibilities and provides flexibility imaging departments have not had before. Our DR retrofit systems are designed to make this transition from analog as fast and simple as possible without having to replace the entire room.
Q: How can facilities overcome budget constraints when it comes to acquiring digital radiography devices?
Cover: Retrofitting digital on to older systems would be less costly as long as the system being upgraded is a quality system that will have minimal service requirements. If a completely new system is required, then facility managers need to be aware that there are many providers and smart buying is a must. Also, be aware of the true operational requirements. They should be known and adhered to. Don’t buy options that will never be needed or used. Not only do they cost more upfront, they also add to ongoing service contract costs. When it comes to portable digital panels, a strong drop/loss prevention program is helpful.
McCarron: Retrofitting existing CR mobile units and rooms with DR detectors allows facilities to achieve the benefits of DR at a very affordable cost. In addition, Carestream detectors can be registered for use on any DRX system, enabling detector sharing for more efficient utilization and a lower investment. As an example, health care providers can use a detector in a portable system for early morning rounds and then transfer it to a DR room for use during the day. Carestream also developed its more affordable DRX Core family of detectors to address the needs of small to mid-size providers with tighter budgets and lower volumes.
Schrecengost: The transition to digital does not need to blow out your budget. There are many options that are less expensive that enable facilitates to have the latest technology without the high price tag of replacing the entire room or portable system. The main thing to keep in mind is the long-term value you receive from investing in DR. If you invest now, it will pay off dividends in the near and long-term and you don’t have to buy the most expensive equipment to see those returns soon.
Q: What should one look for in a digital radiography service provider?
Cover: Competence sounds like the easy answer, but there is more involved here. Response time is very important. For a facility that has multiple systems response time is a bit less important than the small clinic that has only one. The fastest would be to have someone on staff that is capable of handling the routine issues to restore operation of the system and a service provider willing to help out over the phone. Bigger issues will still require a service visit.
McCarron: Look for a provider that offers varied service plans and experienced technicians. Facilities with fully staffed biomed departments may only require a plan that covers parts and provides phone support. In the future, needs may change or there may be remote locations that the facility’s biomed engineers don’t cover. The same service provider should be able to offer full service when and where it is needed. Studies have shown that experienced service technicians can deliver faster diagnosis and resolution of equipment problems. This maximizes uptime and saves time and money for hospitals, imaging centers and other imaging providers.
Schrecengost: Like with any imaging device purchase there are some basic requirements all partners should meet in order to provide sustainable value and a positive ROI. These include:
Q: What advice would you give a biomed involved in the purchasing of a facility’s DR devices?
Cover: Serviceability, survivability, versatility! Locked down systems prevent in-house access to the systems and put more pressure on managers to maintain expensive contracts. Batteries and chargers, drop force limitations, interface cabling/connectors and software/computer stability will affect the amount of time and resources required to keep these devices productive. Digital panels that can be used in any room provide freedom for the users to have multiple panels, multiple users and back-up when one or two panels require maintenance.
McCarron: Biomed engineers can evaluate DR devices for reliability, suppliers’ service/support programs and cybersecurity benefits. But it is also essential to work with both radiologists and technologists to ensure that their needs are being met. Technologists need an intuitive interface that makes imaging systems easy to use. Radiologists require extremely high-resolution images that allow them to detect subtle conditions and deliver an accurate diagnosis.
Schrecengost: To make choices that can support your facility’s short- and long-term needs, it’s important to include all key stakeholders when making decisions for imaging devices. Speak up, ask to be involved and have a seat at the table. And again, looking for overall value vs. short-term pricing perks will pay off in terms of sustainable profitability and lower cost of operations. This is critical for all imaging equipment needs, not just DR.
Q: What else do you think TechNation readers need to know about purchasing and servicing digital radiography?
McCarron: It’s important to select a supplier that is committed to providing the same level of training for your facility’s biomeds as their own service organization. While technology is important, maintaining high service levels always requires skilled, well-trained biomed professionals.
Schrecengost: When comparing systems, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, and make sure you are buying based upon the unique needs of your facility and your patient community. Make sure you are buying a system that is easy to integrate, and easy to use. Many software and hardware systems end up being difficult to assimilate and use which can minimize your productivity and ROI.
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