Should I Switch to Digital Imaging?

This article addresses some common points to consider for clinics that are still film-based, as well as clinics that have Computed Radiography (CR) technology now and are considering upgrading to Digital Radiography (DR). While there are lots of reasons to upgraded to a digital imaging solution, in a few instances some healthcare providers may not make the switch.

Cost
When considering the upgrade to digital, cost is the largest point of concern. Keep in mind the cost your clinic already incurs when taking x-rays. Consider those cost reductions in your justifications. It is easy to remember ID cards, filing envelopes, film, chemical and monthly maintenance prices. In addition, shipping costs for mailing films to radiologists and other associated costs. Space also is an often-overlooked cost of a film processor. What uses could you put that darkroom to, if you didn’t need to have the film processor in there? If you are starting a new clinic, do not forget the cost of setting up a darkroom and ventilation system.

Time
Time is probably the largest cost savings you will experience and may be the last thing a clinic will consider. If you are a large clinic, taking several exams an hour, you know every minute is precious. If you are a small clinic and the doctor is taking the x-ray exposures, then time is far and away the most expensive aspect of taking x-rays. The less time the doctor spends in the x-ray room and in the dark room, the more time they will have to treat patients. That translates into more revenue for the clinic. If the clinic has a staff member who takes the x-ray exposures and develops the films, it is easy to calculate a real cost savings associated to that staff member not spending time in the dark room and less time in the x-ray room. Faster throughput in the x-ray room can result in shorter turnaround times for patients. This can increase time in your clinic’s schedule for more patients. A busy clinic can save minutes on every exam and reduce patient returns by having a DR system. Low throughput in your x-ray room is one of the biggest signs you should be making the change to DR.

Patient Retention
This increase in efficiency can be key to patient retention. Offering your high level of care in a timely manner is what patient’s desire. Doing your report of findings with your patients, while looking at a digital image on a large computer screen will also aid in patient retention. Seeing that your clinic offers the latest in imaging technology will give them the confidence that they are in the right hands for receiving the best care. In addition, sending your patients home with a CD of their images is an effective way to increase exposure for your clinic. Word of mouth advertising is the best kind.

Reimbursements
DR makes more sense now than ever before. We have all heard about the reduction in reimbursement for non-digital systems. This accounted for a 20% reduction in 2017, and another 7% anticipated in 2018. There may not be a better time than now to look for your first (or next) digital system. Even without considering an increase in throughput, the changes to reimbursement rates means you will be making more money per patient with DR than CR or film.

Why Wouldn’t I Buy a Digital Imaging Solution?
Making the switch to a digital imaging solution isn’t necessarily for everyone but it can certainly benefit most healthcare practices. There are very few disadvantages to going to DR, so it is mostly a question of weighing the costs. For example, if you are only taking a few x-rays a week, the savings and convenience of a DR panel may not outweigh the initial investment.

Additionally, there are a few considerations to keep in mind with a DR that do not apply to film. If you are buying a wireless panel, you should consider protection and insurance for the panel itself. No DR panel is immune to damage from being dropped and any panel that is not fixed inside a table or wall bucky should be protected and insured—just like your phone. We recommend looking into protection options at the time of purchase. To get the most out of your digital imaging solution, you are going to need a dependable network in your office or clinic. Make sure to talk to your dealer about software and IT support. The software is just as much of an important part as the hardware.

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