DR Breathes New Life into Radiography

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Image courtesy of Carestream Health

The writing on the wall for 2009 is clear. DR will see a resurgence. The reasons behind DR’s rebirth are multi-faceted. In the current ultra-tight economic climate, facilities need to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of their modality investments, and radiology’s workhorse is a workflow winner.

Since DR is still the technology producing about 70 percent of imaging studies in radiology, efficiency is especially key. Plus, a lot of early DR adopters are eyeing new systems with a wider variety of applications, automated features, faster exam times and expected throughput. Many sites that invested in CR over the last decade as a stopgap measure are now turning to DR. Take for example Integris Southwest Medical Center in Oklahoma City. The DR convert slashed standard two-view chest studies from eight to 10 minutes with CR to a lightening fast sub-two minutes with DR.

No doubt, wireless flat-panel detectors are sure to further boost the market in 2009. DR’s latest innovation weds portable convenience with DR efficiency. The forecast? The new year looks like a perfect storm for digital radiography. “Hospitals that aren’t looking at digital plate technology today are already behind the curve,” opines Bill Broaddus, director of radiology at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, Ky. Read on to find out about pioneers’ specific goals, how they tackled their deployments, what they gained and how they plan to take advantage of DR’s latest offerings.

Putting patients at the forefront

Western Baptist Hospital in Paducah, Ky., is one of the few DR-only sites in the country. The hospital started deploying CR in 1997, and by 2003 decided to transition to DR. The rationale was two-fold, says Director of Diagnostic Imaging Bob Seely. “We wanted to keep techs in the room with patients, and we also wanted to increase patient throughput.” CR falls short on both fronts. Not every room is equipped with a CR reader, so techs must leave patients on the table as they bring the cassette to a reader to review images. A patient might fall off the table or become agitated or concerned while the technologist is out of the room, which means some CR studies require a workflow-busting two technologists. During a DR study, technologists review images at the side of the table, increasing patient safety and comfort. At the same time, patient throughput is increased because the image review is immediate.

Between 2003 and 2007, Western Baptist Hospital purchased 26 Canon Medical Systems digital plates including its CXDI 40-EG, CXDI 40-EC and CXDI-50G systems. All general diagnostic imaging rooms are equipped with three digital plates: one in the table, chest plate and a tethered plate. The hospital also added a digital plate for the overhead tube in its digital fluoroscopy suite, and the final phase involved digital portable imaging.

The hospital has achieved its initial goals with the DR project, says Seely. Patient safety is enhanced as the technologist remains with the patient through the entire imaging process. What’s more, throughput and efficiency have increased because techs no longer carry plates back and forth to the reader. The project satisfied the hospital’s fiscal objectives as well. “Without Canon retrofits, we would not have been able to justify the cost of DR for the entire department,” states Seely. And the hospital continues to gain financially. In the last four years, diagnostic radiography volume increased by 3,500 exams annually, while their FTE techs by four.

Tackling turnaround time

Integris Southwest Medical Center operates one of the busiest emergency department in Oklahoma, performing 10,500 trauma x-ray exams annually. Over the last nine years, the hospital gradually rolled out CR and DR throughout radiology and the ER. “CR improved the analog approach in the ER,” admits Dee Tucker, director of radiology. By 2007, however, trauma patient volume had escalated to a point that demanded a more efficient solution. “We knew DR was necessary to meet our goals,” says Tucker. The hospital needed to increase patient throughput with a system that facilitated fast, organized workflow. Economics also played a critical role in the decision to deploy DR as the hospital needed a system that minimized obsolescence. “We can’t afford to replace systems every few years,” states Tucker.

After scouring the market, Integris Southwest Medical Center invested in the Carestream Health DR 7500 for