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Digital X-Ray Panel Upgrades: A Case Study

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Block Imaging partnered recently with a primary care office looking to upgrade from conventional film-based X-ray processing to a direct-to-digital (DR) system. To help others considering the same option, we documented the process step-by-step. The following is a case study that demonstrates the selection, installation, transition period, and ROI forecast calculation of the new equipment.

The Background

The office consists of 5 family practice physicians. Their most frequently taken radiological studies are common for this type of practice, the top 5 being chest, lumbar, cervical, foot, and wrist shots. Their scan volume over the past 12 months averaged 187 studies per month. They also provide X-ray services for a podiatrist practicing in a separate unit elsewhere in the building.

Before their DR upgrade, films were processed chemically and sent via courier to a radiologist for interpretation with the results returned on paper. Their film-based system was 20+ years old. The cost of ownership for that system was between $1,200 and $1,500 a month, which included maintenance and the purchase of processing chemicals.

The Decisions

Equipment Selection

The options being researched by the practice manager included both CR readers and DR panels. The convenience of digital images for long-term storage and transmission to the radiologist was the primary factor in these considerations. While CR was an option that would address the storage and transmission concerns, DR was chosen because it could do the same while also providing substantial time savings that could increase the productivity of the X-ray room as well as an overall reduction in radiation dose for patients.Specifically, the facility management chose to purchase an 11" x 17" wireless Gadox panel (see a comparison of Gadox and CsI here).

Disposal of Old Equipment

In this case, the equipment needing to be removed consisted of a wet processor and its chemical contents. The site made arrangements with their X-ray service provider to have the processor drained and the chemical agent disposed of by them. The processor itself was removed by Block Imaging and recycled at a scrap metal facility. 

The Installation

The installation process for this wireless panel was about 10 minutes. Other than some quick calibrations, the panel was ready to go out of the box. 

The Transition

The transition from film to DR was relatively simple and consisted of a few adjustments in imaging technique (most of which added the benefit of lower dose) and a software demonstration by the installing engineer to familiarize the staff with the basic use of the workstation. Further refinements in workstation customization can be made by the staff as they use the panel. 

The ROI Forecast

An ROI forecast was calculated for this facility based on their current average volume (187 scans per month) and the reimbursement averages for their most common studies ($40 each). The baseline forecast indicated that the practice will see a return of capital expenditures in 8-9 months.

Also factored in was the money that will be saved by eliminating monthly chemical and service costs. This reduced the ROI forecast to 7-8 months.

Finally, because of the time saved by using DR over film, a volume increase was included in the calculations as well. A conservative figure of 10% (18 more scans each month) was added to the baseline and reduced the forecast an additional 1-2 weeks to a relatively firm 7 months even. Of course, if the practice is able to attract more traffic than that, the ROI could come even sooner. In either case, the time savings of DR are sufficient to free up the system and accommodate the increase.

A Bonus!

In addition to improved image storage, simplified transmission, lower dose, and faster image acquisition, the facility was able to reclaim a substantial amount of space. The dark room that held the processor and the storage area that held the film are now available. Exactly how this space will be repurposed has yet to be determined, but it's worth noting that the staff was very excited to have the option.

The Takeaway

Not every digital X-ray upgrade case will contain exactly all the same steps: different sites may choose different panel configurations, different installers may or may not remove old equipment for you, different traffic rates will produce different ROI forecasts, but there are several things that every DR panel upgrade will have in common:

Time saved- DR is simply the fastest way to acquire images. 

Money saved- Maintenance, film, and chemical bills go out the door.

Dose saved- Your scans can be performed at a lower technique.

Space reclaimed- No more dark room or film storage.

If you're ready to begin pursuing these benefits to your patients and your practice, we're ready to talk you through what your own upgrade process might look like. Contact us to speak with one of our X-ray Product Specialists and learn more about your digital X-ray panel options.