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Hospitals and major medical facilities are not the only ones “going digital.” Group and solo practices from a range of healthcare disciplines have discovered the advantages digital imaging (DI) has to offer. If you’re not yet among them, here’s some expert advice you won’t want to miss.

High-volume chiropractic digital imaging was launched in 2003 at Life Chiropractic College West (LCCW) — the first chiropractic college worldwide to integrate DI into its curriculum.

Thousands of imaging studies later, the efficacy and economy of DI are indisputable. “The benefits of digital imaging are so substantial that every DC should get on board,” says LCCW president Gerard Clum, DC.

Citing digital’s speed and ease of use, he offered this analogy: “Going plain-film to digital can be compared to reading War and Peace in print or on [an electronic device].” With advantages ranging from high-quality computerized images to more effective patient education, DI is an asset to any practice.

But for the busy clinician, the topic of DI can be daunting — especially for the not-so-newly licensed. James Carter, DC, DACBR, and associate professor at LCCW, provides an overview.

Whether you’re just starting out with new equipment or planning a retrofit, “You still need an X-ray machine and preferably one that isn’t more than 10 to 15 years old,” says Dr. Carter. “The primary feature that changes with digital imaging is the method used for image capture. What was previously captured on film is now converted to computer images via a digital receptor in the cassette. You still need to follow standard imaging protocols.”
This means measurement and positioning, settings, exposure time, collimation, and shielding. DI doesn’t eliminate the necessity for quality X-ray physics. DI uses different technical settings, however, so you’ll need a new technique chart, as you would with any new X-ray set-up.

Goodbye darkroom

Much more than just high-tech imaging, DI lets you say goodbye to darkrooms and their associated square footage, X-ray film and processors, and all matters related to film storage, copying, mailing, and handling.

ipad-300Certain chiropractic DI software also includes technique-specific measurement tools for analysis and marking. So, if you can click a mouse, you can mark a film in a fraction of the time it would take with a pencil and a ruler.

Built-in digital enhancement and image manipulation features reduce the number of retakes required. Completed images are viewed on specially-designed high-resolution monitors just seconds after exposure — ready for analysis, marking, or patient educ
ation. And one more mouse click will send the study to your DACBR for review.

The advantages of DI typically offset the costs of installation or retrofitting. “Being able to produce a CD of an imaging study in 30 seconds and then give it to a patient to take home with them is priceless for patient education,” says Dr. Clum.

And DI software is systems-compatible, allowing images to be transferred to or received from other providers or institutions without concerns about program compatibility. A universal file-formatting, transmission, and decoding system called DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) permits the exchange of digital files. It also allows images to be sent to or imported from electronic medical records (EMRs) or saved as JPEG files.