Agfa is always eager to share the information that it has acquired through? broad experience and through its positions of leadership. This Intelligence Report, which Agfa is pleased to sponsor, is one more example of a commitment to radiology education that goes beyond Agfa’s clients to reach the entire field.
Agfa understands that not every radiology organization is ready for a picture archiving and communications system (PACS). While the digital radiology department is a worthy goal, it is necessary to recognize that some departments simply lack the organizational support called for by a full-scale PACS implementation. By taking smaller steps toward digital operations, these facilities can benefit from today’s advanced technologies without feeling rushed into commitments for which they may still be unprepared.
Although the amount of film used for analog radiography has plateaued, the use of film for digital imaging continues to climb; in the United States, for example, annual digital film use stands at five sheets per capita. The cost of film and related supplies can be decreased through membership in a group purchasing organization (GPO), in which the combined buying power of many institutions produces deep discounts. Saint Joseph Hospital, Orange, Calif, reports on its GPO experience beginning on page 4. Approximately 75% of US providers’ purchases of health care equipment and supplies are now made through GPOs, and that industry estimates that the resulting savings amount to $20 billion per year.
Florida Hospital, a seven-facility system based in Orlando, has nearly complete PACS capabilities. Nonetheless, it prints 25% of its images on film at the request of orthopedic surgeons, physicians outside its network, and tourists who take films home with them. As described beginning on page 8, Florida Hospital recently increased efficiency and decreased costs by decentralizing 22 imagers. Eliminating darkroom errors, chemicals, and excess staff time can save a facility using dry imagers as much as 15% of its film expenditures per year.
The Agfa Diagnostic Center (ADC) can also create savings by improving work flow and enhancing productivity. This combination of computed radiography (CR) and a computer capable of routing images for soft-copy or film output was installed by Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, San Jose, Calif. The facility placed two units in its radiology department and a third in its emergency department a year before its scheduled PACS implementation; as a result, the transition to PACS went much more smoothly and predictably than might otherwise have been the case, as noted beginning on page 12.
Technologies like CR and dry imagers can help facilities gain the breathing room that they need to plan for filmless (or nearly filmless) operation in the future. By reducing operating costs and enhancing productivity, CR and dry imagers can permit a radiology department to take the time that it needs to understand the effects that soft-copy interpretation will have on the institution as a whole. Changes in work flow and procedures can also be made, and the organization can undertake analysis of its enterprise-wide needs for the electronic distribution of images.
In this issue, Presbyterian Hospital, Greenville, Tex, is featured beginning on page 16. In a successful campaign to keep its patients from going to larger Dallas hospitals for imaging, the radiology department upgraded the modalities that it offered and discontinued most film use. Where film was still needed, the hospital dealt with stringent water-quality regulations by installing dry imagers that solved waste-disposal problems. The organization eased its fairly sudden transition to PACS use by retaining Agfa as its single vendor, thus avoiding connectivity difficulties.
It should also be remembered that the advent of PACS did not erase every technology that came before it. There is still a need for film, for example, and for the technologies that support film production and interpretation. Agfa has not abandoned these products and services; in fact, innovation and product development continue in these areas. Support for film-based imaging can still be relied upon, even if this sector of radiology captures fewer headlines than it did in the past. As long as physicians and patients require images on film, Agfa will be there to support filmless and film-based radiology operations.
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