I encounter fewer interruptions as I see patients, and that adds time for me to spend with patients.
For those offices that haven’t converted to digital radiography and for recent converts, let’s discuss the benefits of digital radiography with regard to managing X-ray images.
Digital image management increases efficiency and effectiveness while it reduces expense in everything from viewing and comparing X-ray images on a computer screen (as opposed to 2-by-2 pieces of X-ray film), and retrieving archived images, to sending X-ray images to patients and other offices.
I mentioned improved workflow and efficiency in a previous article. From the instantaneous capture and display of images through the patient-education process, we manage the digital X-ray process so much more efficiently that the workflow in our office has literally changed. I encounter fewer interruptions as I see patients, and that adds time for me to spend with patients.
After patient appointments, digital radiography allows me to transfer images with other offices more efficiently. With film, exchanging X-rays frequently involved going to a filing cabinet and physically searching through files, looking on the bottom of the file cabinet drawer for X-rays that had fallen out of their folders, and finding the X-rays I wanted to send. Then the process often involved duplicating X-rays and mailing them to other offices. In some cases, patients took their X-rays with them. When that happened, I always worried that the X-rays would not get delivered.
With digital radiography, the process is seamless. Digital images can be sent electronically to other offices from computer to computer. With our DEXIS® digital radiography system, this involves accessing a patient’s records with a few keystrokes and sending the images. In addition, I can annotate the X-ray images with comments, which helps ensure accuracy. I can confirm quickly when another office receives our images.
Another aspect that digital radiography enhances is image management. Recently, after I had taken a routine set of X-rays and found a new cavity, my patient was incredulous. She said, “Didn’t you just take X-rays not too long ago? I can’t believe it wasn’t there before.”
I was able with a few clicks of the computer’s mouse to display her current X-ray with an X-ray capturing the same view taken about 18 months earlier. The earlier X-ray showed no signs of the cavity, which had developed rapidly, indeed. This is another area in which the ability to manage X-ray images quickly and efficiently enabled me to demonstrate to the patient an important finding and help her understand.
Another area of image management where digital radiography is so effective is in maintaining image consistency. 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. With digital radiography, however, I eliminate those variables and get consistent, high-quality images every time. When I compare digital images taken years ago with recent digital X-rays, I see no deterioration in the quality of the older X-rays that I find in the normal deterioration of film.
Digital radiography has revolutionized the management of X-ray images, making it more efficient and effective than film could ever be.
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].