Having a DR (digital radiography) system can make a huge difference for your practice but it’s good to know what to expect when owning one. For starters, the advantages of DR are plentiful. Some of these positive points include:
Ability for instantaneous images and retakes
DR technology is much more forgiving with regard to technique
Images are easy to find and share
What you should know before purchasing a DR system
As with any investment or large purchase, it’s important to be aware that some expenses in going digital are easily overlooked. Some of these costs include hardware and software upgrades, monitor upgrades, and high-speed internet. One requirement for a DR system is a good internal network and internet connection, which will make life with your DR much better. With your new system, you’ll begin to acquire more images that will need to be stored securely. While having an offsite backup resource is less expensive than paying to copy and store films, it’s not free. Similarly, you’ll need software support and, about 5-8 years down the road, a computer upgrade. In the grand scheme of things, however, having a DR system will be cheaper than the costs associated with film and chemicals.
Will you need a PACS (Picture Archiving and Communications System)?
Needing a PACS can be contingent upon the size of your practice. For example, if you are independent and would like the ability to view images in multiple rooms, you will need a PACS. If you don’t have the desire or need to view images outside of your x-ray room, you can likely do without. If you are part of a larger group, there may already be a PACS in place for you to utilize.
DR utilizes FPD (Flat Panel Detectors) which come in both tethered and wireless options. Since tethered panels are more stationary, there is a higher likelihood that a wireless panel could sustain damage from a drop. Drop coverage is often available but, not unlike other types of insurance, there is a cost and some fine print involved. We absolutely recommend you learn more about your options for drop coverage.
It’s important to know the difference between DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) compatible and DICOM capable. DICOM is standard in the field as a way to simplify the development of all medical imaging. There are many functions of DICOM, however, not all software will (or needs to) be compliant with them all. Most products will advertise their level of compatibility to show what they are capable of. “DICOM-Compatibility” simply means that different users of different imaging devices will be able to smoothly exchange information. There’s a lot of practice management and other software that can integrate with your DR x-ray software—if you pay more to the PMS (Practice Management System) vendor. On the other hand, there’s plenty of software that will not integrate. We recommend that you check with your PMS vendor, especially if you have a private practice.
When you have your DR system
Your existing techniques many need adjusting. For example, ExamVue CsI (Cesium Iodide) panels work well with 400 speed techniques. Most DR systems, including our DirectVet, require less exposure. Unlike conventional systems, DR is extremely forgiving of overexposure. Be sure to watch for this in your practice, as it can happen without being noticeable in the images.
Another thing to pay attention to is your retake rate. Some users may get sloppy because it only takes seconds to get another image. It’s also beneficial to maintain good computer practices. Don’t allow the acquire computer to be used for anything except x-rays. Lastly, you’ll want to identify who you’re gong to send x-rays to regularly. There are doctors, hospitals, or radiologists you’ll need to coordinate with to setup for DICOM send.
JPI is available to answer questions you may have about purchasing a DR system. Please feel free to complete the short form below.