Managing images digitally

Jan. 1, 2006
Before the advent of digital radiography, the term “image management” meant storing small film X-rays in a patient’s file folder, along with hard copies of intraoral and extraoral photos.

Before the advent of digital radiography, the term “image management” meant storing small film X-rays in a patient’s file folder, along with hard copies of intraoral and extraoral photos. We retrieved images manually and copied and sent them via snail mail to other doctors and insurance providers. Because of the small size of X-ray images, patients were almost never directly involved in treatment planning.

With digital radiography, however, patient involvement is possible. We capture and store images digitally, and retrieving and distributing them involves no more than a few clicks of a computer mouse. Because of new image management software, patients can be involved directly in reviewing their X-rays and planning their treatment.

Let me give a few examples. In addition to digital X-rays, I take many digital intraoral and extraoral photos. I’m able to store and catalog all those images on the computer as part of a patient’s record. With the DEXIS® digital radiography system in my office, I’m able to simultaneously view all the images for a specific patient on one screen.

The screen is divided into four sections, with X-rays in the upper left quadrant, digital photos in the upper right, numbered pictures in the lower left, and on the lower right any scanned photos, such as panos. I can have all the images in one place instead of having several software systems that require my jumping around to view different kinds of images.

A presentation panel is also on the same screen. Using this function, I can click and drag any image I want to show my patients, either individually through the presentation panel, or, if I want to make a slide show, I can click and drag images in order. So that’s one aspect of ­image management - being able to simultaneously catalog and present all kinds of images.

Another area is in dealing with other doctors and insurance companies. Now my clerical team has every image of every patient on the computer. Instead of searching through file folders to find film X-rays and then duplicating and mailing them, my team can find images electronically and transmit them to another office. As more insurance providers are able to receive images this way, it makes the process virtually seamless. The streamlined flow is so effective that I can’t imagine working without digital radiography.

A new function called the Integrator enables people with different practice-management systems to organize and display patient X-rays within the practice-management system itself. Now there’s no need to keep switching between digital radiography software and practice-management software to display and manage images. It’s all integrated within one function, and it works with all major practice-management systems.

Advances in image management are one more reason why the trend is so strong in digital radiography. No modern practice should be without the technology.

Dr. Cynthia Brattesani maintains a private practice in San Francisco. She won the prestigious ADA Golden Apple New Dentist Leadership Award in 1996. She is an enthusiastic member of organized dentistry, having held positions at the local, state, and national levels. You may reach her at [email protected].

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