Hospital emergency departments face more patients even as more and more EDs shut down, and organizations are doing everything they can to attract physicians and patients. New services, advanced technology and faster throughput are a winning combination for many of them, and digital radiography fits the bill — for office and clinic use, too.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) studied in-depth the shortcomings and challenges facing American emergency care and released several reports last year. A major contributor to the problem is the increasing number of patients — a 26 percent increase in 2003 over the previous decade to almost 114 million patients — while losing 703 hospitals and 425 EDs during the same time frame. The IOM also found that 40 percent of hospitals report ED overcrowding on a daily basis.
DR to meet demand
Hospitals are looking for ways to increase their efficiency even as they offer more and more services. Christiana Hospital in Wilmington, Del., has undergone a $126 million expansion that included 17 additional emergency department bays, six new operating rooms, three additional radiology labs and a new learning center. For a busy emergency department at its maximum capacity, DR offered the quick turnaround time needed. The facility went all-digital last fall, according to Bob Garrett, administrative director. He installed two DR units from Philips Medical Systems in May 2006. The facility’s ED originally had three rooms but because of the expansion, “we were starting to feel the crunch.”
By adding a fourth room and DR, he says they could keep up with demand. That addition also meant that there would always be three rooms available during construction. Two rooms wouldn’t have been able to handle the workload. Garrett says the team was very fearful of what would happen if there was a problem in one of the two existing rooms. “That would have been too risky.” Focusing on throughput got the equipment approved by the administration.
“I think the ED physicians really appreciate the availability of the images,” Garrett says. Besides images being available more quickly, Garrett says he doesn’t have to hear about misplaced films anymore.
Image quality comparable to CR was a big selling point for Garrett. “We like the fact that image quality was very consistent across both CR and DR,” he says. Different image quality would have been a longstanding issue for his radiologists. “We would have continually heard about it. It’s easier to avoid the problem altogether.”
Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill., installed DR in its emergency department in January 2006, choosing the ddR Formula Plus from Swissray. The hospital’s administration realized that going digital would improve turnaround time and recognized the importance of that in the ED, says Jeffrey Girardot, MD, a vascular/interventional radiologist and chair of the department of radiology. Girardot likes the system because it uses one detector for both upright and supine imaging. “Other companies’ equipment need two detectors,” he says. Swissray also offers 17x17-inch plates compared with the 17x14-inch plates most manufacturers offer. Girardot says those three extra inches are very helpful for larger patients. He also appreciates the spatial resolution of 3.7 to 3.9 line pairs per millimeter. “It’s really good as far as resolution.”
For maximum efficiency, Edward first limited use of the DR equipment to superusers. They then taught the remaining technologists once they were comfortable with the equipment.
DR aids in growth
Facilities expanding their services find DR a good solution to add to the mix. Mary Black Health System in Spartanburg, S.C., opened the $16.3 million, four-story, 109,500 square foot Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas on its campus last fall — an expansion of the existing Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Vail, Colo., renowned for sports medicine. The clinic includes a new imaging center. Prior to the new facility’s opening, Mary Black used CR from Fuji but “we wanted to go with more efficient technology when opening the new facility,” says Felipe Patino, Jr., director of diagnostic services. Since the new building is geared to specialists in orthopedic health, “we needed something that could be tailored to their needs.” The technologists were already familiar with Fuji’s software, so bringing in Fuji DR “meant a really low learning curve,” says Patino. “We could quickly get them on board which was a plus.” Patino bought one Fuji Dual SpeedSuite