BY HEATHER POULIN
The first experimental iteration of the technology that has developed into what is known today as digital radiography was first described 27 years ago. Since the emergence of the first DR system in 1990, there have been monumental changes to the technology and in the industry as a whole. Today, we are already well beyond the "tipping point," with numerous factors leading to DR becoming an integral part of radiology today.
What was once an expensive, high X-ray dose, and nonportable solution is now a more affordable technology that offers a low X-ray dose to patients, wireless capabilities, and high-resolution imaging. These changes have helped enhance the workflow and productivity of radiological practice and, as a result, DR has been embraced as today's standard of radiology. In addition, significant changes enacted in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 have led diagnostic imaging facilities to seriously consider upgrading their radiology rooms to DR, if they have not already done so. Now that these changes are well in progress and health care facilities have their eye on transition and advancement, several key features and services should also be considered during this milestone moment and as facilities look toward the future of the technology.
High Cybersecurity Standards
Not enough can be said about how important it is to protect a patient's private health information. As technology continues to evolve and medical devices have the ability to retain private health information, diagnostic imaging facilities need to be able to rely on the technology they use to help prevent patient data from falling into the wrong hands.
When weighing DR equipment and software options, cybersecurity should be considered. Industry-leading groups, including HIMSS and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, have published resources to help standardize the questions that diagnostic imaging facilities should be asking manufacturers and distributors of DR equipment and software. Manufacturers and distributors should be prepared to answer these questions—and to address imaging facilities' cybersecurity concerns.
New, Less Costly Designs
By design, DR solutions need to be rugged and durable while, at the same time, maintaining a lightweight, portable, and easy-to-use structure in order to help maximize technologists' productivity and effectiveness. The industry is constantly innovating to improve these features not only to help diagnostic imaging facilities improve their imaging capabilities but also to benefit the facilities' technologists and workflow.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 is helping DR become the standard in the industry, since facilities that still use conventional radiography face cuts in Medicaid reimbursements as part of the legislation. Due to these cuts, diagnostic imaging facilities may be under tight budget constraints, but that doesn't mean DR is beyond their reach. Compared with where X-ray technology was 40 years ago, DR devices have become more affordable regardless of practice size or type. Decision makers will not need to sacrifice quality over pricing.
Strong Service Support
As with any changing technology, there is always a learning curve. Diagnostic imaging facilities should take advantage of the training offered by manufacturers and distributors of DR equipment and software to help their technologists and bio-meds get comfortable with the technology. The service and support available with a DR solution can make a difference in its effectiveness and longevity.
On the Horizon
DR technology has come a long way in the last four decades and, as we look ahead to 2018, diagnostic imaging facilities will have an important task at hand as the shift from conventional radiography continues. Manufacturers and distributors are ready to assist practices with choosing top-notch equipment that fits best for them—from both a budget and workflow perspective. With an eye on service and support, as well as key features such as design and cybersecurity, diagnostic imaging facilities can be well equipped to select the DR technology best suited for their needs.
— Heather Poulin is manager of health care marketing for Virtual Imaging, Inc, a Canon company.