How to Add Medical Images to EMR
Many healthcare organizations have already gone digital and many more are in the process. Most commonly, this means using a robust Electronic Medical Records (EMR) solution that enables healthcare workers to access patient records from multiple points of care. Knowledgeable and tech-savy patients expect to see their physicians carrying an electronic note pad, not paper files, and medical communities require increased access to patient medical records, and enhanced capabilities with the records themselves.
However, one important bit of information that is often overlooked in EMR systems is, the availability of integrated, easy to access, patient-centric medical images and reports. Because of the advancements made in medical imaging, most patients have routine medical images that are part of their comprehensive medical files…for instance, mammography and other radiographic procedures that are part of overall health care.
Medical imaging: The Neglected Part of Patient Records
EMR systems focus on clinical intelligence and paper-based records, but in truth, healthcare providers generate large amounts of medical imaging information – CT Scans, MRIs, X-rays, mammograms and other radiological procedures generate enormous image files. Typically, this data is spread throughout the organization and not centrally managed, so, if a patient needs a copy of a mammogram, she goes to one department; for an MRI, it’s another department. Each of the individual departments owns and manages their own images, with the duplication of personnel required to do this across the various departments.
The need, then, is for a solution that brings medical images into the EMR, providing a central Medical Imaging Repository that can be accessed by all of your authorized healthcare personnel, anywhere, anytime, and that enables your patients to move from one doctor to another within your organization with complete records available in each department
Perceived Objections to Including Images in EMR
Many organizations never even consider including images in their EMR, because they have already concluded that it can’t be done, because:
- The images are too large and too difficult to store and handle in a central repository
- Viewing images means waiting for a time-consuming download of the large image files.
- Physicians really only need to see the written report – they don’t have to see the actual image
The Ideal Solution
The ideal solution is an enterprise-wide Medical Imaging Repository that enables vendor-neutral integration with any EMR system and that provides a zero-footprint viewing capability that requires no download. This ideal solution should be:
- PACS Vendor neutral so that it can be used in environments where PACS and imaging systems may change over time
- Standards based and not limited to storing proprietary data formats
- Capable of integration within an EMR system, so that the images are accessible with a single log-in to the ERM.
- Readily available from any location, anytime
- Secure and redundant
- Rapidly scalable
- Support DICOM standards and frameworks
- Support multiple imaging departments
- Vendor neutral
Making Use of the Cloud
Radiology Services Online provides comprehensive web-based storage, exchange and interpretation of radiologic images. This software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution offers a proven Cloud application that not only serves as an image repository that can be integrated with any EMR, but that also includes:
- Web-based Ordering
- Web-based Scheduling
- Exam/Study Identification
- Patient reports
- Claim billing
Finally, the importance of a complete enterprise-wide Medical Imaging Repository can’t be underestimated. It provides your users with universal access to complete patient imaging records, which includes not just the access to the image, but the ability to access from anywhere, anytime with a single EMR login.
Is the Future of Your X-Rays Digital?
Digital and virtual work environments continue to grow, and with that growth comes the need to scan or digitize everything from paper documents to industrial and medical x-ray film. Unlike paper, however, scanning X-rays requires additional expertise, both in the scanning (digitizing) process and in the ultimate destruction of the X-rays.
That’s why it’s important to ensure that the X-ray scanning service you choose meets all of the requirements you need from start to finish. For instance, if you are a medical office, you will need to ensure that the X-ray scanning service you hire adheres to the privacy regulations required by HIPAA. If you are a user of industrial X-ray equipment, doing radiographic non-destructive testing, you will have similar privacy concerns related to the projects or products that your company is developing. For both medical and industrial X-ray applications, hiring an X-ray scanning service that adheres to specific rules regarding customer privacy is essential.
The Benefits of Digital X-Rays
Whether you are a user of medical X-rays or industrial X-rays, there are benefits to be gained by eliminating your old X-ray film files and going digital. If you currently store your X-ray film files on site, the first and most obvious effect of eliminating the film files is the improved use of space. If you rent storage facility space off-site, digitizing your X-ray film archives eliminates the ongoing rental fee for the space. In addition digital X-rays:
- Streamline work flow because there is no longer the need to physically file and retrieve the film as it is needed for review, referral or comparison.
- Provide a low-cost and efficient way to store, view, duplicate, share and distribute X-rays.
- Free up physical office space and even allows for less square footage or takes away the need to rent storage space. This change can vastly reduce overhead expenses.
- Cut down on operational costs, because of lessened storage retrieval costs.
- Allow resource allocation which can provide the opportunity to grow your business while remaining efficient and customer oriented.
What Should the X-Ray Scanning Service Provide?
In addition to the assurance of customer privacy mentioned earlier, an X-ray scanning service should be able to:
- Convert your x-ray images into a variety of file formats recognized by various third party applications and PACS systems. Some of the file formats you may need are: jpg, gif, tiff, pdf and DICOM files. An experienced X-ray digitizing firm should be able to accommodate nearly any file format request.
- Be prompt in both pick-up requests and delivery requests.
- Provide your digital files in a method that is convenient for you, either via CD, FTP, or Cloud transfer.
- Handle large jobs as well as small jobs
- Use only high-quality, reliable X-ray film digitizers, designed to accommodate the type of X-rays that you have.
- Guarantee the quality of the scanned files
- Offer a certified X-ray destruction and recycling service
Most X-ray users are pleased with their digital transformation. The find that by using digital imagery, the have an enhanced viewing capability, by being able to use viewing features such as zooming, cropping and other image manipulation tools. For medical offices or industrial companies that need to provide copies of X-rays, making a copy of a digital file is easy, efficient and cost effective. This versatility also enables digital files to be easily viewed, imported, exported, e-mailed or printed, in addition to being archived in Cloud based archive systems. Because digital X-rays are so easily accessed, they can be used in many different settings, from traditional medical and industrial non-destructive testing scenarios to legal presentations or business reviews.
How Do You Use the Cloud to Transfer Medical Images?
Medical imaging is widely used to create images of the human body for use in diagnosis and treatment of disease. Medical images are intrinsically very large files, often with multiple layers, and, as anyone who has ever tried to send a large file via email knows, cumbersome to transmit from one location to another. This is where the cloud comes in.
The Cloud is similar in concept to a utility. Through an internet connection (the equivalent of an electrical outlet), you can access whatever applications, files, or data (including large diagnostic medical images) you have opted to store in the cloud--anytime, anywhere, from any device. So, if one physician uploads a large medical image to the cloud, another physician, in another location, can “plug in” and view the image, provided the first physician authorizes access.
How It Works
In most instances, the Cloud is synonymous with the Internet. However, medical images sent via an image sharing Cloud require a zero footprint viewing solution that enables “view without download” in order to harness the speed and power of the Cloud. Other considerations that are equally important include patient privacy concerns, security of transmission and redundancy of storage and back-up systems once the image is in the Cloud.
In most cases, cloud image sharing solutions resemble a PAC, with the Cloud platform providing virtual transmission systems that allows a health care facility to both receive outside images and send their images to other providers. Cloud image sharing is extremely cost effective. While a PACs can be an expensive hardware capital expense for a healthcare facility, Cloud image sharing doesn’t require an upfront monetary investment. Cloud image sharing systems are subscription based – you pay for what you use when you use it.
Cloud image sharing systems are scalable – you can increase your storage and sharing capabilities or decrease at will. A Cloud image sharing system is an excellent solution for a group of hospitals or clinics that don’t want the expense of to owning and maintaining a lot of hardware. Another benefit of Cloud-image sharing is the issue of automatic upgrades. A SaaS/Cloud always operates on the most current version, while hardware systems get outdated by newer technology and need to be replaced on a regular basis.
Sharing Outside Your Cloud Network
Sharing images is a no-brainer for hospitals or clinics that are part of the same cloud network, and it’s not much different for healthcare organizations that are outside the Cloud. Because of the security set-ups within a Cloud system, all it takes is confirmation of the identity of the outside provider via protected password, and a private link the enables the outside provider to log into the cloud and see the study that he is authorized to see.
Using the Cloud with your PACS
Most hospitals have PACs and they’re not likely to go away anytime soon, but a Cloud image sharing solution can help your organization free up PACs storage space. Instead of downloading the image into your PACs, you can read the image within the Cloud sharing platform and delete it when you no longer need it. As you use the Cloud solution more and more, it will become the archive of images that are shared between providers.
Benefits of a Cloud Image Transfer System
A Cloud image transfer and sharing platform enables more cost-effective collaboration between physicians, faster second opinions when time matters, as well as easier involvement of subspecialists who may have more experience in interpreting some exams or treating some diseases. In these ways, patients, providers, and facilities all benefit from using the Cloud to transfer and share diagnostic medical images. With the cross-county mobility that most individuals have today, patients benefit by having their medical images available no matter where they may be traveling. By storing their medical images on a cloud server, they can be treated or followed up no matter where they live or travel.
Maintaining current and previous studies in the Cloud enables patients to lower radiation exposure and reduce costs that would be required by duplicate tests in another location. Finally, Cloud sharing is the fastest, most efficient way to transfer images, not only saving time, but preventing images from getting lost or misplaced. The Cloud ensures that the images are available where they need to be and when they need to be.
As digital imaging expands, Cloud storage and transfer will continue to trend upward. As healthcare facilities get used it to this improved form of image exchange and viewing, it will become the preferred method.
Old X-ray Film – The Not-So-Silver Lining
In an interesting twist, and yet another reason to go digital, old X-ray film has become a target for thieves. Over the past several years, hospitals in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts and other states across the U.S. have been hit by thefts of X-ray film. In most instances, thieves are disguised as employees of recycling companies, and they just walk into hospitals and leave with boxes or barrels of old X-ray film.
What’s with this X-ray film scam? The enterprising thieves were likely after the silver in the old films. At the close of today’s market the Troy ounce value of silver was $21.77, but over the past year prices have ranged into the mid $30’s. With a depressed economy and high unemployment, many people are looking anywhere they can to make some money.
No one’s going to get rich extracting the silver from X-rays, because there isn’t much silver in X-rays. Even at the higher Troy ounce prices, 100 pounds of films would yield only about $35. It could be less if the films are newer, because newer film technology requires less silver.
The Even Bigger Problem
While hospitals that have their X-ray film stolen lose out on the silver reclamation fee, a bigger issue regards federal privacy laws that can lead to fines for hospitals that compromise patient information. Federal regulations require hospitals to keep film for six years, but then it must be destroyed to protect patient information. HIPAA requires that X-ray and all medical film be treated like any other type of medical record. The patient’s information needs to be protected throughout the entire process.
With this rash of X-ray film thefts, there are a number of newly formed, sometimes not so legitimate recycling firms. Unscrupulous firms pose as legitimate recyclers, but don’t follow the HIPAA regulations and are not HIPAA certified with secure locations to handle medical records and X-rays.
The U.S. National Archives, lists these regulations for the disposition of X-rays
- Like any Federal records, X-ray files must be scheduled in accordance with NARA regulations (36 CFR Part 1228).
- Unidentified X-ray films and those in advanced stages of decomposition that can neither be interpreted nor copied should be destroyed. Since acetate and nitrate in advanced stages of decomposition can damage nearby records in good condition, and since decomposing nitrate poses a fire hazard, these records may be destroyed and subsequently reported to the Archivist of the United States. (36 CFR 1228.92(b))
- Where it is economically feasible, agencies should endeavor to recover the silver content from disposable film (41 CFR 101-45.10).
Preventing X-ray Film Theft
One way to prevent the theft of X-ray film for silver and prevent fines for HIPAA privacy violations is to go digital and have the film destroyed and recycled by a legitimate recycler. X-rays are converted to electronic files using film digitizer machines that can be used for a variety of applications, including PACS, mammography CAD, teleradiology, oncology, and orthopedic surgery. Film digitizers play a key role in medical imaging systems during the conversion from paper/film systems to digital systems.
Digital data doesn’t mean that you’re home free -- Radiology departments must take steps to secure their digital data and abide by HIPAA privacy regulations. Using a data security strategy for digital images, including: (1) segmenting radiology data; and, (2) allowing only authorized personnel access to them is a step in the right direction. Some Cloud storage systems that are designed specifically for medical images have this capability built in. These kinds of systems also have security in place to provide disaster protection and multiple backup servers, thus reducing the likelihood of critical patient information being attacked by viruses or spyware.
Additionally with images stored in the Cloud, radiologists can access images on their mobile devices, such as smartphones or iPads. It’s important, however to ensure that the Cloud system is a “zero footprint” system that enables viewing images without download. This eliminates the possibility of images left on devices that may not ensure patient privacy. When the Cloud application is closed, the data is gone.
Imaging departments need to look at all kinds of potential threats to their security –from theft of old X-ray film to the security of digital images and change what needs to be changed in order to keep patient privacy intact.
Cloud PACS – Image Sharing Made Simple
Radiology departments across the U.S. are discovering the ease and cost effectiveness of managing images by using Cloud computing.
Cloud computing is an expression used to describe a variety of computing concepts that involve a large number of computers connected through a real-time communication such as the Internet. Cloud PACS are a type of Cloud computing that enables the transfer, storage and access and viewing of medical images using only an Internet browser. There is no need for additional viewing equipment.
Two of the main advantages of switching from traditional PACS (Picture Archiving and Communications Systems) to a Cloud PACS are (1) infrastructure scalability; and, (2) cost reduction. Cloud PACS offer new ways of doing business with more flexible technological solutions and business models.
When using traditional PACS, hospitals spend a significant amount of their budget on maintaining IT infrastructure, including application servers, archives and modality equipment along with software applications for storing, accessing and transferring their medical images. Further, traditional PACS solutions have high maintenances costs, and quickly become obsolete, requiring the acquisition of new image archiving and viewing solutions, and the resulting costs of installation and migration.
Enter Cloud PACS
While the health care industry had been slow to embrace Cloud computing, siting privacy concerns, they have watched the banking industry embrace Cloud computing technology, with little or no privacy issues fall-out. Now with the incentives offered for proving “meaningful use” under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, the health care industry appears ready to embrace Cloud PACS. With the meaningful use deadline looming, healthcare providers are realizing that Cloud PACS can be implemented much more quickly than other solutions, enabling them to cash in on the HITECH incentives.
As the health care becomes more comfortable with the security and reliability of Cloud technology, companies continue to create new ways of managing medical imaging data. Whether simply using the Cloud as a method of rapid transfer from one physician to another; or inviting patients to take control of and manage their own medical images, Cloud PACS offer a faster, more efficient way to store and distribute medical images than traditional PACS.
This overall need for Cloud PACS is, in large part, being fed by advances in diagnostic imaging devices, which create larger and larger imaging file, pushing the need for alternative, low cost solutions for accessing, storing and sharing medical images. Cloud PACS have gained prominence in the past few years as a viable solution for the problem of archiving large amounts of data and sharing images between medical facilities which are not on a common network.
The Benefits of Cloud PACS
In provider settings, Cloud PACS help practices to scale their resources to the height of their capabilities. Smaller practices can use applications that are based on the SaaS/Cloud computing model, or software-as-a-service [SaaS. This model enables practices to create repository for the data that they need to store and access, on an as-needed basis—increasing their amount of usage when they have more data storage and transfer requirements and decreasing it when their requirements are smaller.
Another benefit is the reduction of the costs and maintenance of in-house hardware. The provider can still access the records or images, but they won’t have to the costs associated with storing them on their own servers. This can translate to a huge savings in the medical imaging space, because of the enormous amounts of data that are produced with the newer medical imaging devices. Cloud PACS solve the problem of where to put the data as the files continue to grow larger and larger.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of Cloud PACS is the ability to share images between institutions at Internet browser speed. Zero footprint Cloud solutions enable the viewing of very large images without requiring downloads. This means that medical providers don’t have to wait for a courier service to deliver images. They can access and diagnose nearly instantly.
Surprisingly, the very issues that once were concerns for Cloud PACS users - security, compliance, and privacy – are rapidly becoming benefits. Cloud services and hosting companies must meet the strict needs of the healthcare industry, including HIPAA compliance and file encryption standards, among others.
X-Ray Scanning -- Moving Toward a Digital Practice
If your medical office is going paperless, one question to consider is whether you should convert your X-ray film to a digital format, or if you should continue to maintain X-ray film in a paper-based medical filing system. Most offices who do convert their X-rays find that there are a number of advantages to doing so, and that the conversion process was not nearly as difficult as they thought it would be.
How to Convert X-Ray Film to Digital
X-rays are converted to electronic files using film digitizer machines that can be used for a variety of applications, including PACS, mammography CAD, teleradiology, oncology, and orthopedic surgery. Film digitizers play a key role in medical imaging systems during the conversion from paper/film systems to digital systems.
There are two ways to go about the film to digital conversion process: (1) purchase the equipment and scan in your office, or; (2) procure the services of a company that specializes in X-Ray digitization and medical records scanning. Regardless of whether you procure equipment or use an outsource service, you should ensure that high quality X-ray digitizers are used for the process. One option for X-Ray digitization is VIDAR's line of high-quality medical film digitizers. Vidar X-Ray film digitizers are used by many hospitals and imaging centers to improve efficiency and enhance patient care. VIDAR claims that their film digitizers deliver clinically proven image quality, the highest reliability in the industry, and unmatched value.
In-House or Outsource?
Deciding whether to purchase the equipment and digitize your X-rays yourself, or outsource is a straightforward calculation of time, effort and expense:
How many X-rays do you have? If you’re looking at hundreds or thousands of X-rays, you’re better off outsourcing the project. An experienced X-ray scanning service can provide a comprehensive range of services to help your move to digital X-rays, including the proper equipment for the job, trained personnel, as well as being able to assist you in disposal and recycling challenge presented by the X-ray film themselves.
How much free time does your staff have? And how much room do you have to work? Two of the main reasons for going digital is to streamline your work flow and reduce space constraints caused by the storage of X-ray film. This is one instance where it doesn’t have to get worse before it gets better. Unless you have staff that’s eagerly looking to take on extra work because they don’t have enough to stay busy, as well as more room than you need in your offices, it’s far better to have the X-ray digitization done off-site. The X-ray scanning service company can arrange for pick-up of your X-rays, as well as proper disposal, and can deliver the digital images to you via CD. Some services can even store the images for you in the Cloud, for access anywhere, anytime.
Advantages of Going Digital
Nearly all types of radiological practices benefit from going digital, including small radiology and ultrasound clinics, large hospitals and medical centers, as well as mobile medical practices. Some of the advantages that our customers have reported are:
- Streamlined work flow
- Easier, faster access to all X-ray images
- Reduced file storage requirements
- Reduced operational costs
- Better patient outcomes
- Easier monitoring of HIPAA requirements
Using the Digital Data
Just as with paper files and X-ray film, steps must be taken to ensure that digital data is safe and the patient privacy is assured --one way to do this going forward is to avoid making hard copies if they’re not necessary. This may take some retraining of your staff if they have been used to a paper/film office.
A data security strategy should be implemented for the digital images. This can be aided by segmenting the radiology data and allowing only authorized personnel access to them. Using a Cloud solution for image storage can make this an easy proposition, because access is based upon log-in, and often, audit trails are provided for monitoring activity within the system.
Cloud technology also enables radiologists and other physicians to access images on mobile devices, and with zero footprint technology, the images are never downloaded, so they are secure at all times. The key to going digital is getting started with your X-ray scanning.
Medical Records Scanning – Challenges of Moving from Paper to Digital
It sounds pretty simple…scan the medical records, import them into an EMR and your office has gone digital. As medical practitioners who have made the transition can tell you, it’s not as simple as that. One of the biggest challenges is realizing that going digital doesn’t mean eliminating paper. There are new bits of paper that come into the office every day…from intake sheets and files sent from other doctors; and there are old legacy files that must still be managed in concert with the electronic health records.
For these reasons, it’s wise to consider your strategy when you make the decision to go digital.
Effective Strategies for Scanning Medical Records
One of the decisions to make is how much to scan, when to scan it, and where to perform the scanning. If you’re a very small office, with only one physician and few patients, you may be able to scan all your records relatively quickly and easily, but let’s face it in today’s healthcare industry there aren’t many old-time family doctors working out of an office in their home, seeing a few patients a week. Most have had to merge with other doctors and see far more patients in order to survive the changed economics of healthcare.
Most practices have multiple doctors, and hundreds, if not thousands of patients. It would be impossible to scan everything all at one time…so the intelligent strategy is to scan what you need, as you need it. An effective way to do this is to scan the most recent medical data (possibly the past year) for current patients. This can be broken into even small scanning chunks by choosing the records each week for patients who have appointments for the following week. That way, you’re always scanning a week ahead of the time when you need the electronic records.
This strategy requires that you have your EMR set up and functional, so that the scanned records can be brought directly and immediately into the EMR system.
This strategy has several distinct advantages:
- Enables fast implementation of the EMR system
- Facilitates staff involvement and training with the EMR
- Helps to ensure document security and access during the transition time by limiting the number of files being scanned at any one time
- Works whether you’re scanning in house, or outsourcing
- Eases the burden of working with hybrid files – some paper and some electronic
- Reduces the over-all cost of conversion by scanning only what’s needed, when it’s needed
What About Medical Records Scanning Going Forward?
Once the current patient records are scanned, then you can decide what your next step is. If you have large numbers of existing paper records that are taking up valuable office space, then it may be prudent to ship them all out to a reliable scanning service so that they can be quickly and efficiently scanned and converted. This type of bulk conversion of records that are not needed on a day-to-day basis is generally an economical way to accomplish your conversion. Furthermore, it will save money by eliminating the need for paper storage, and will save time by making these legacy records easier to search, access and distribute when you need to.
Choosing a Medical Records Scanning Company
For medical practices, no asset is more important or valuable than their patient records. It is imperative for you to ensure that when you entrust this data to an outside scanning service, it remains safe and secure at all times. For medical records, in particular, there are privacy and HIPAA regulations to which the scanning service bureau must adhere. Therefore, you must do your due diligence, ask the right questions and get the assurance from the medical records scanning company that your patient records will be safe and that your patient’s privacy will be ensured.
The End of Paper Records? Or Not?
Even once your office is completely up and running with your EMR, and all legacy records have been scanned, some records – for instance new patient intake forms – will continue to be created on paper. These records need to be scanned immediately and integrated into the electronic chart for the new patient. This day-to-day scanning of small amounts of paper is best handled in-house as needed.
For the foreseeable future, you will be an electronic medical office, who still needs to process some paper.
Dental Film X-Ray Digitizing – What You Need to Know
While paper scanning is an office task and can be done with general office equipment, any type of medical film digitizing, including dental film, is an imaging procedure governed by medical and industry regulations. Therefore, dental film digitizing requires specialized equipment that meets the regulations imposed by the FDA. Particular attention must be paid to accurately and reliably scanning the details in medical and dental films because a medical opinion and/or treatment decision will be made about patient care based on these scanned images. When making a diagnosis from an x-ray, image quality is everything.
What to Look For in a Dental Film Digitizer
In addition to providing outstanding image quality and meeting FDA regulations, you should also:
Make sure that the dental scanner you choose can replace film as the legal original. There is no sense in digitizing your dental film if you still have to store the originals to comply with legalities.
Analyze your office digital workflow to make sure that you can integrate your digitized analog film into the workflow. Whether you’re just converting into a digital practice, half-way there or fully converted, it never hurts to review your workflow to see if improvements can be made.
Consider space requirements and ease of use for the dental digitizer that you choose. The smaller the better, the simpler the better – as long as your diagnostic and legal requirements are met.
Ask about digitizing time -- it should take mere seconds (roughly 18 seconds) to digitize a panoramic film.
Make sure that the dental digitizer you choose supports scanning of all dental film sizes: Panoramic, Cephalometric, and Intraoral.
Ask if any clinical studies have been done comparing film to the digitized images produced by the dental digitizer you’re looking at. Reliable medical digitizers will have been employed in clinical studies at known institutes.
Mmake sure that the dental digitizer you choose can digitize patient films from other referral facilities or for consultation. You want referral patients brought into your digital workflow, not consigned to paper files and x-ray film in file drawers.
One Recommendation – the VIDAR Dental Digitzer
One device that meets the criteria is VIDAR’s Dental Film Digitizer, which is specifically tailored for dental applications and is a regulated medical device for use in diagnostic applications. According to VIDAR, the VIDAR Dental Film Digitizer is able to produce digitized images as detailed as the original film. This is because VIDAR employs specialized optics to deliver quality results specifically for transmissive materials such as x-rays – not reflective media. The VIDAR imaging system is designed to accurately render the full grayscale data with minimal noise throughout the specified grayscale density range. VIDAR’s medical products repeatedly meet demanding Optical Density tests that include specifications for both noise and linearity – at all grayscale steps. This is a calculation of clinically relevant Optical Density – not DMAX. For medical professionals this difference is important.
VIDAR claims over 20,000 placements of radiology devices, and is therefore the #1 selling medical film digitizer manufacturer worldwide. The VIDAR dental digitizer has the same image quality and reliability as the medical film digitizers have, and a variety of software connectivity options exist for easy integration into practice management systems.
VIDAR offers high-speed digitizing of dental images without sacrificing quality, and supports the digitization of all dental film sizes – for Panoramic, Cephalometric, and Bitewing films (in approved film holders).
Last Thoughts about Dental Digitizers
Remember when you go shopping for your dental x-ray digitizer you need more than a “scanner.” You need a dental digitizing machine that will enable you to do everything you need to do for today and the future in your digital office.
X-Ray Film Scanning for PACS and the Cloud
With the advancement of Electronic Medical Records, PACs and WebPACS, healthcare organizations today have a wealth of competing prioritizes. Add to this the budget conscious times that appear to be our new “normal” and it’s easy to see that while providing exceptional care and guaranteeing patient safety continue to be the healthcare industry’s primary goals, these goals but must be met against increasing challenges and changes to our healthcare system.
Among the changes that we need to address are: (1) cost control; (2) changing to EHR; (3) protection and recovery of data; (4) compliance with new rules and regulations, including HIPAA.
While PACs are the technology of today, some providers still have film X-ray that has not been converted, and that may be taking up space that could be better used for creative health solutions that lower cost and improve efficiency. X-ray film scanning is part of the overall drive to provide better document management via electronic means. These challenges push healthcare leaders to find creative ways to drive down costs and be more efficient, while preserving and improving patient information protection and security.
Is an X-ray scanning service the answer?
Since this article specifically concerns the aspect of electronic medical records that has to do with converting X-ray film, let’s look at ways that an X-ray scanning service can help.
An experienced x-ray film scanning service can be a valuable resource, letting you outsource your large and small x-ray scanning projects to help you manage film and digital images in both your PACS and any web-based storage application. X-ray film outsourcing can provide a cost-effective approach to converting analog films to digital images, enabling you to:
- Improve radiologist productivity
- Increase accuracy of interpretations and conduct remote diagnosis
- Streamline workflow
- Reduce costs
- Avoid the high cost of equipment purchases, upgrades and maintenance
- Optimize your film management
- Free up valuable floor space for expanded revenue-generating opportunities
X-Ray Scanning Digital Image Quality
One of the most important considerations for successful X-Ray film digitization is image quality.
When outsourcing your X-ray film digitizing, make sure that you use an outsource firm that has the experience of scanning thousands of X-rays of all types and sizes. They should be able to recognize spots as small as 44mm. They should support most PACS systems and offer direct support of DICOM in order to provide appropriate image compression to avoid bottle necks in imaging.
X-ray film scanning requires trained technicians who individually load x-ray film into specialized x-ray film scanners, so the first thing you should do is make sure that the outsource firm you chose uses a reliable X-ray film digitizer. Vidar is one company who makes excellent X-Ray scanners that are preferred by many hospitals. These scanners create a digital image from the x-ray film, which can be stored in a cloud-base system or viewed on your PACs. Make sure that you receive the highest quality images available.
Plan for your X-Ray Scanning Project
Prior planning ensures project success. The X-ray film scanning outsource firm that you choose should help you plan your project. An experienced project manager should work with your staff to determine all special requirements for your project. Make sure that processes are in place to ensure a high degree of accuracy throughout the process. You will want the best quality image capture from even the most challenging x-rays.
Determine where the work will be done. Do you want the film X-ray project done on-site at your facility, or do you want it all handled at a state-of-the art conversion facility? If your project will be handled at an outside facility, how will transportation be handled, and how will patient privacy be ensured? These are important questions to ask.
Proactive Patients Want Online Access to Radiology Reports
What is a Proactive Patient?
Proactive patients are those who know that their health is their business. They’re not content to hand their health over to physicians, but rather, they work in partnership with their physicians to stay healthy, and when they do get sick, they research their illness and treatment options and make informed decisions about what they want to do.
Proactive patients are not content to let their physicians manage their health records, lab reports and radiology reports. They ask for copies of all lab tests, radiology reports, and doctor’s notes, because they know that having all of their health information at their fingertips can help expedite communication between their health care providers. They’re not content to wait a week for someone to fax their records or send a CD with a radiology report when they need them now.
What the Surveys Say about Online Radiology Reports
There are several surveys reported -- one undertaken in 2012 by Dr. Johnson, an associate professor at Wake Forest Medical Center -- that show that among a small test groups of patients, the majority favor direct access to their radiology reports—and, they would like that access to be immediate and online.
These proactive patients want to see their radiologic results immediately, even when their doctor has not yet had a chance to review them. They want to know what the radiologist has determined and they want to see the radiologic image.
This result varies from the commonly followed procedures where the radiologist report is sent to the patient’s physician and the patient may need to week several weeks to get an appointment and receive the results. This can result in weeks of needless worry.
Even when the test results are negative, proactive patients want to have the news and most will begin to research their condition, so that when they do have the appointment with their doctor, they have some information about what’s going on, some knowledge of treatment options and are prepared to ask specific question of their physician.
What Radiologist Say about Online Radiology Reports
The idea of providing an online radiology report directly to a patient raises concerns with radiologists. Most feel that patients are not qualified to assess the information and are concerned that the reports might cause increased anxiety, as well as increased telephone calls to the radiologist or other healthcare provider. Some voiced the concern that simply providing reports was not a caring way to communicate with patients, especially if the test results indicated serious health problems.
On the other hand, some radiologists speculate that communication of radiologic reports and images might improve patient care by making radiologists more visible to patients. The underlying problem is that some radiologists don't want to be accessible to patients. Other speculate that immediate access to radiology reports might cut down on lawsuits, but the bottom line does seem to be general resistance among radiologists to providing reports immediately and directly to patients.
Online Radiology Reports – Part of the Information Age and EMR
In this age of mandated Electronic Medical Records and readily available medical information online, proactive patients are no longer satisfied with a doctor telling them “your tests were fine.” They want to see for themselves. Medical information is no longer hidden in heavy leather-bound books; it is readily available from reliable sources on line. Of course, there is a proliferation of inaccurate online information, as well.
Perhaps the solution is to provide immediate access to online radiology reports with hyperlinks that direct patients to a reliable source of medical information. NIH, MedLine and Cleveland Clinic all offer a wealth of reliable online medical information.
Finally, perhaps the medical community should not be so ready to believe that only they understand medical terminology. For any proactive patient who is truly interested in understanding what their online radiology reports say there is a wealth of information available that expresses information in layman’s terms, and/or, defines the medical terminology so that it is understandable to non-medical personnel.
There are SaaS/Cloud solutions that let you share radiology reports online.