When digital radiography hit the scene a little over a decade ago, it promised a lot of upside when compared to conventional analog X-ray technology.
There were certainly a lot of benefits to going digital, including:
- Increased safety through reduced radiation
- Superior X-ray image enhancement
- Enhanced X-ray image quality
- Reduction of required storage
- Elimination of chemical developing agents
- Ease of image sharing
- Simplified operation
- Elimination of the problem of lost or misfiled images
The early top-of-the-line machines provided excellent advantages over their analog predecessors. Unfortunately, as so many practices experienced, many of these benefits didn’t always pan out with some of the less-expensive machines.
Upgrade to Digital Radiography — What Often Happened
Some practices made successful upgrades to digital radiography equipment, but many others ran into difficulties they hadn’t expected — going digital turned out to be tricky.
They purchased a digital radiography machine based on price, looking for affordability and to protect their budgets, which was understandable and sometimes necessary.
They were unable to predict that those machines would quickly become outdated and barely pass ever-tightening regulations.
In the least-fortunate scenarios, medical practices have found themselves with outdated digital radiology equipment just a few short years later, but they are still locked into a payment plan that limits their options to make upgrades to meet their current needs.
Another problem is that many of the older low-range to mid-range machines have proven, over time, somewhat difficult for X-ray technicians to use.
More complicated functionality and processes mean slower workflow, fewer patient services that can be delivered, and increased irritation for everyone involved.
Upgrading to DR — The Right Way
Hindsight is always 20/20, and there are valuable lessons to be learned when we compare these less effective upgrades to some fields and specialties that managed a more successful transition.
Orthopedic practices within larger hospitals or facilities often placed a priority on purchasing top-of-the-line machines.
They recognized the need to provide X-ray services efficiently to a high volume of patients within a limited timeframe — many practices can only perform X-rays on certain days, and they sometimes need to serve 400-600 patients on those days.
The same has held true for many surgical hospitals and urgent care facilities. They require the best image quality within the shortest amount of time, leading to an investment in high-end, lasting digital radiography equipment.
For these specialties, the higher initial investment they made in higher-end, quality digital radiography machines has paid off for them over the long term.
Upgrading to Digital Radiography or Improving Your Technology? — Now’s the Time
In early 2017, insurance companies sent out a mass email summarizing policy changes designed to speed the transition of healthcare providers to digital radiography.
Those changes included an 11% reduction in insurance reimbursements to facilities not using digital radiography, with the penalty to be increased every year after.
As you consider upgrading your in-house X-ray facilities to digital radiography technology, there are some factors you’ll want to consider, including:
- Type of DR plate — cesium iodine (higher image quality) or gadolinium oxysulfide (slightly less expensive)
- Image quality measured by the number of megapixels
In the end, we recommend investing in higher image quality over initial cost savings that may evaporate as regulations and technology evolve.
Upgrading to Digital Radiography — An Investment
Modern digital radiography equipment is expensive — there’s no doubt about that.
However, considering the significant advantages in patient care it provides, we encourage you to consider making an investment in equipment that will last for years to come.
Now is the time to make the upgrade — and to do it right.