Economical, Efficient, Easy: Laser Imagers
 Physicians Imaging Visalia in California uses the Sony UP-DF500 FilmStation imager to provide referring physicians and patients with film copies.

At a time when reimbursement rates are low and the economic climate is uncertain, imaging centers, hospitals and clinics are looking for savvy ways to produce non-diagnostic prints for treatment planning and consultation with colleagues and patients while controlling costs.

Reducing film expenses

Valley Regional Medical Center (VRMC) is a rural 214-bed, level III trauma hospital in Brownsville, Texas, performing approximately 75,000 imaging procedures each year. Serving Brownsville, South Padre Island and communities north of Brownsville including Harlingen, VRMC offers services such as emergency care, neonatal intensive care, neurosurgery, cardiac surgery and orthopedic surgery.

“As a rural hospital, we get everything—all trauma cases come here,” says Jerry Hatley, director of diagnostic imaging. The center is capable of caring for trauma patients with a variety of injuries with surgeons, orthopedic surgeons on-call 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.

With a large volume of procedures performed for out-of-town patients, film copies were being made for referring physicians and patients at an average cost of $1.64 per sheet. “At 75,000 exams per year, that is a lot of money,” Hatley says. “Film costs were going through the roof and we were looking for some kind of alternative to satisfy referring physicians and reduce our operating expenses.”

Installing aycan’s xray-print solution about five months ago has given VRMC the ability to print radiological and other medical images on plain paper at near film quality, providing a low-cost solution for sharing imaging with referral physicians and patients. The cost per sheet is about 12 cents, “so you can see the huge savings right there,” he notes.

With the new printer, printing images is easier and faster for VRMC technologists, which has eliminated printing wait times. Additionally, Hatley says that with the imager, there is almost no cost of ownership and maintenance. “You simply buy the equipment, the toner and the paper—that is the cost of ownership,” he notes. “We have not had any downtime so far with the laser imager.”

VRMC plans to transition to a full PACS and Hatley sees laser imagers still are  key.

No need for a service contract

In November 2007, Physicians Imaging in Fresno, Calif., opened Physicians Imaging Visalia, an affliate in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley to serve approximately 120,000 residents of Visalia, Calif. Since that time, the Visalia location has performed on average, 300 imaging procedures per month including MRI, x-ray and ultrasound.

To provide referring physicians and patients with film, physicians chose a UP-DF500 FilmStation Dry Film Imager from Sony, says Rob Tookoian, CEO of Physicians Imaging Visalia. The imager was installed once all modalities were in place.

After looking at different options, it ultimately came down to quality and the best value for the cost of ownership.

“Why pay for a service contract for a traditional laser printer, when you could buy a new FilmStation for the same price?” Tookoian says. The cost to purchase Sony’s FilmStation now is about 25 to 30 percent of the cost of a laser imager five years ago, he notes.

A service contract is not really an issue with the Sony imager, which comes with a 1 year warranty. “If there is a problem, we can just ship it back in a box,” Tookoian says. “After a year, you can just buy a new one. It is just matter of figuring out what makes sense for your business.”