Digital image management

May 1, 2004
For those dental offices that haven't converted from film to digital radiography, I'd like to discuss the extraordinary benefits that digital technology brings to the area of X-ray image management.

Steve Lynch, DMD

For those dental offices that haven't converted from film to digital radiography, I'd like to discuss the extraordinary benefits that digital technology brings to the area of X-ray image management. Image management encompasses several activities, and in every one of them, digital radiography makes the job easier, more efficient, and less expensive.

Digital image management consists of everything from simply viewing a digital radiograph on a computer screen (as opposed to viewing a tiny piece of film) to enhancing it with software to enlarge it or highlight certain areas of the image. It also encompasses storing and retrieving X-ray images, comparing X-rays taken at different times, and sending X-rays to other dental offices and insurance companies.

Let's first take a look at the digital capture and display of X-rays. This is one of the areas where the DEXIS™ digital radiography equipment I've installed in my office really makes a difference. First, it's the only digital X-ray system that enables users to customize the capturing of images to their own preferences. DEXIS allows you to specify in what order you want to capture X-rays, and how you want them digitally mounted and displayed before you begin taking X-rays. This means you and your team don't have to manipulate and reverse images to get them to display correctly on the screen. You tell the software how you want to work, and the software does the rest.

Since the system is digital, there is, of course, no film involved. The image you capture is displayed immediately on a large computer screen in the exact orientation you have specified. This contributes tremendously to the efficiency of managing the image, since your staff does not have to retreat to the darkroom to process film X-rays.

Digital image management provides tremendous benefits for the storage and retrieval of images. Since they are stored on a hard drive, they can be retrieved with a few keystrokes or clicks of the mouse. There's no need to rummage through file cabinets looking for tiny pieces of film, and there's no worry about losing or misplacing valuable X-ray images. You always know right where you digital X-ray images are, and they're always accessible.

Maintaining image consistency is another area where digital radiography is effective. With film images, variables ranging from the strength of the developer solution to the freshness of the film mean that it's often difficult to maintain image consistency. However, digital radiography eliminates those variables, giving consistent, high-quality images every time. When you compare digital X-rays taken years ago with recent digital X-rays, you can be certain there has been no deterioration in the quality of the older X-rays, such as what happens with film X-rays.

Finally, image management involves exchanging images with other dental offices and with insurance providers. DEXIS digital radiography supports all the image formats of other digital systems, so you can easily receive digital images from other dentists. You also can send DEXIS digital X-rays to others in the standard DICOM format. DEXIS is compatible with all other digital radiography systems.

The DEXIS DEXclaim module also allows users to easily attach digital images to insurance claims and send them electronically to insurance carriers. DEXclaim works with any electronic insurance claims program and is supported by virtually all insurance providers.

DEXclaim was developed hand-in-hand with NEA. It enables dental practices to take advantage of NEA's network of insurance partners by allowing them to seamlessly send images to any insurance provider. Images are attached to insurance claims in one step by selecting and dragging them to the appropriate area in the attachment form. Attachments sent using DEXclaim are linked to the appropriate claim and are made available for review by the insurance claims clearing house through NEA.

The extent to which DEXIS has revolutionized the management of X-ray images is remarkable — easier, more efficient, and more secure.

Steve P. Lynch, DMD, is in private practice in Oxford, Ala. Since 1995, he has been teaching dentists, team members, dental students, and faculty the applications of lasers and digital radiography. You may reach Dr. Lynch by email at [email protected], or visit his Web site at www.lynchdmd.com for more information.

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