Printers Play On: Laser Imagers Deliver
Konica Minolta DryPro 793 laser imager prints 120 films per hour and features a 25-inch by 27-inch footprint.

Even as facilities continue to migrate to PACS and other filmless, paperless endeavors, there is still a significant need for laser imagers in healthcare. Whether for patients, attorneys or other clinicians, facilities have a need for hardcopy images today and anticipate that need well into the future. Different factors come into play when choosing the right one. 

Dependability is the name of the game at St. Mary’s Hospital in Knoxville, Tenn. Troy Smith, PACS administrator, appreciates the good reputation and reliability of Carestream Health’s Kodak DryView 8900 laser imagers. “They’re always up—we have no jams and no issues with film curling up. It’s very dependable machinery.”

St. Mary’s doesn’t have a lot of need to print film, ever since PACS was implemented. Two neurosurgeons, however, prefer film in the operating room. They are comfortable with PACS when they are seeing inpatients on the floor or in their offices, Smith says, so he asked why they wouldn’t use it in during surgery. They told him that with just two 20-inch monitors in the operating room, film is needed. “We don’t want them to take their business elsewhere, so they get film.” 

A PACS upgrade required a 48-hour downtime so hardcopies were printed for referring physicians and surgeons. Smith tries to schedule such upgrades for weekends so that printing is kept to a minimum.

St. Mary’s does some business with attorneys, says Smith. “They will bring us images that they want printed on hardcopy for a court case.” However, Smith has seen changes there as well. “Sometimes they bring in film and want us to put it on disk.” He says that as long as attorneys are paying for printouts, they will keep producing them.

Select a size

Carestream’s Kodak DryView 8900 Laser Imager can handle multiple modalities and produces up to 200 films per hour—each at 650 dpi.

Smith says that the sorter they added to the printer is helpful for large studies. Rather than receiving the key images in one big pile, the sorter divides up the jobs. The 8900s come with sorters. The system has neurosites, a two-year-old imaging center and plans for another connected hospital. They all have 8900s with sorters.

Another size consideration is the footprint of the system. The 8700 is a small enough size that users can “squeeze them just about anywhere you want them,” says Smith. In the radiology department, the printer was put in an easily accessible corridor. One sits between a special procedures area and the diagnostic area, and the two areas share it. The other printer was closest to CT but was moved to the MRI area once they realized they were printing more MRI studies. “It’s easy to move around,” says Smith, which allows users to conveniently locate equipment where it’s most needed at any time.

The 8900 is a little larger with all the sorting capability and film drawers, and it is near the PACS in the emergency department.

Ability to pick and choose

The University of South Alabama Children’s & Women’s Hospital in Mobile, got their first Drystar from Agfa HealthCare in 2002. This year, that unit was replaced with the 5500 for faster imaging and the ability to handle three different sizes of film, says Richard Willingham, assistant director of imaging. “I can pick and choose what I’m printing and what size,” he says. Plus, the unit has a digitizer so he can take old films and make copies for physicians.

The facility primarily prints ultrasound studies. A switch to PACS is scheduled for this October so “we are trying not to produce as many films anymore,” Willingham says. “We are putting everything on disk and reprinting only on demand.”

Along with PACS, the facility has plans to migrate to digital mammography in the future so they specifically sought a printer approved for that modality that demands 5-megapixel output. “We have the capability built in before we even get to that point [of implementing digital mammography],” he says. But they will have to send films and this is the only way to do it.

Mammo demands

Pottsville Hospital and Warne Clinic, Pottsville, Penn., also required a printer approved to print digital mammograms. They have been using the Konica Minolta DryPro 793 mammography printer since 2005. “We have PACS networked to it so we print all films from there,” says Sherry McDonald, RT, director of imaging.

McDonald likes the size of the printer—which has a footprint of 25 inches by 27 inches—allowing for out-of-the-way placement.

She also likes the speed. After a minute for calibration, films print every 30 seconds. The ability to load film in daylight rather than having to take a cassette in to the darkroom is another plus.

She says they don’t print many films—mostly just for patients who need to take films to a surgeon or other physician. “We do have to make films available to the patient.” The facility also prints a phantom each week and checks phantoms on film and on the digital display.

Always be a need

Printing films will never be completely phased out, says Willingham, of University of South Alabama Children’s & Women’s Hospital. “You always need copies for patients to take to their doctors.” Plus, he says there are still older physicians who don’t use computers. “They’re not comfortable with an image unless they can see it in their hand. They need something they can hold onto.”

Electronic capabilities will limit a lot of film, Willingham says, but “I think films will be around for a while.”

McDonald, too, sees the need for a printer into the future. We’re probably always going to need one. You really have to have one available for overall backup for the department. In case everything went down, we could still print.”

Smith says that the need for printing is less and less. His organization’s new hospital probably won’t even include lightboxes. “As a PACS administrator, I’m dead set against film, but if we need it, the printer is always there for us. If you come down to the wire and your PACS is kaput and you’re trying to dig yourself out of a hole, you can print film.”