Positive changes are in the near future for the Radiology Department at Boone County Hospital (BCH). With advancements in technology and the need to keep up with hospitals in surrounding cities, the Radiology Department is taking the steps needed to be competitive in the their market.
On February 6th, Computed Radiography (CR) will be added to the Radiology Department. CR uses equipment that looks similar to conventional radiography except that rather than using film to create the image, a digital image plate is exposed to X-rays which is processed by a computer and viewed on a monitor. In other words, rather than taking film into a darkroom for development, the imaging plate is run through a computer scanner to scan and digitize the image. This technological change has a significant impact on hospital operating costs and efficiency because radiography is the most common method of diagnostic imaging. It accounts for 70 percent of all imaging procedures, in comparison to ten percent for CT scans and six percent for MRI’s.
“The purpose of CR is to produce accurate radiographic images without the use of film and to improve efficiency,” says Craig Freeman, Radiology Director. “Another positive is the radiographer can enhance or correct images immediately following exposure so the need for retake exposures is dramatically reduced, benefiting the patient.”
In addition to providing improved diagnostic images, CR simplifies the process of transmission for purposes of physician consultation because the images are already in digital form. CR images can easily be sent to other physicians or facilities via computer networks for consultation. CR systems permit considerable reductions in the cost of storage space for diagnostic images because images are stored on computer hard drives and not in bulky X-ray film jackets. Currently, images are saved for seven years in the Radiology Department. After February 6th, they can be saved forever.
Craig says one of the big advantages of CR is that previous conventional film X-rays took three minutes to process, now they will take only 24 seconds. Other advantages include: better image quality, and elimination of the cost of film and chemicals to process the film. In addition, images and reports can be permanently archived, precise measurements can be made directly on the film, images can be magnified and the chance that a film might be lost is eliminated.
Advantages for the patient include patient safety, less waiting time prior to the procedure, reduced radiation due to the elimination of retakes, less processing time of the image which means less time for the patient in Radiology, and the images will immediately be available to the ordering physician’s office while the patient is still on the exam table.
Craig says staff from the Radiology Department spent over a year studying CR products and visiting other hospital sites that already have similar systems in place. Currently, half of the Radiology Departments in the United States are digital. Craig says within the next five years, the majority of all hospitals will be digital, allowing for physicians to review the results and share them with the patient before they are off of the exam table.
Other new products being implemented in Radiology this year are a Digital Radiographic Fluoroscopy Unit and PACS (Picture Archive and Communications Systems). Fluoroscopy is a technique for obtaining continuous motion X-ray images in a patient and is often used to observe the digestive tract. For special exams, it is much quicker. It will be implemented this spring. PACS is a networked computer system that archives digital images and distributes images, allowing several physicians to view a patient’s image in multiple locations at the same time, whether in different departments of the same hospital or from remote facilities. This system will be implemented at BCH this summer.