The importance of addressing radiation dose

Radiation dose has long been an important industry topic. Recently, attention has broadened from the health field to prominent mainstream/consumer awareness. With more patients becoming sensitized to this topic, imaging professionals are fielding more dose-related questions—including those related to projection radiography.

Given the substantial benefits of medical imaging, it’s important for the imaging community to clearly communicate what we are doing to address this issue. At Carestream Health, we are actively working to help customers minimize and monitor patient dose. Our end goal is to enable our customers to get the best medical image required for diagnosis at the lowest possible exposure to the patient.

One important way we are contributing to dose reduction is by continuously developing better X-ray detectors that enable radiology professionals to reduce the exposure level when taking a digital X-ray—and consequently lessen patient dose—while still maintaining a very high quality image suitable for diagnosis. We also offer software tools that enable customers to track and report each patient X-ray exposure, as well as the number and type of exams that have been rejected or repeated. Use of these monitoring tools can lead to improved patient care through additional training that may help reduce patient dose and the need to repeat X-ray exams.

Equally important, we have also taken a leadership role within the scientific community to help develop a standardized radiation exposure index for digital radiography. This standard, now complete, is currently being implemented in our products and will help customers more accurately measure and track exposure. We are also active supporters of the Image Gently project—a campaign that encourages increased awareness of opportunities to lower radiation dose in pediatric radiology procedures.

What questions are you getting from patients regarding dose? Are you getting the tools you need from imaging suppliers to address this issue?  

– Holly Hillberg, Chief Technology Officer, Carestream Health

Customer spotlight: Wireless DR flexibility at Memorial Medical Center

Marjorie Calvetti, MSW, RT(R), Radiology Director, Memorial Medical Center, Springfield, IL talks about MMC’s use of the CARESTREAM DRX-Evolution DR imaging suite.

Editor’s Note: Memorial Medical Center, Springfield, IL, is a 500-patient community hospital, a Level I Trauma Center, and also a Regional Cancer Center. Their imaging exam volume is 250,000 images/year. Their ER room sees 180 to 250 patients per year.

Radiology professionals: here’s your image challenge!

The new contest starts today—what is it?!!

The object is to guess what’s in this image. We have chosen it deliberately to be difficult for you to figure out—the last contest (from our old DR blog, now merged with Everything Rad) we had eleven clever radiologists (and a couple of extremely sharp technologists) who correctly identified the image and won the prizes. This time we hope to stump you all! The image was made with a CR system by our own Carestream Health non-destructive testing group.

Prize(s): Win your own personal Everything Rad coffee mug! You’ll be the envy of your imaging center when you flaunt this rare mug.

To enter, give us your entry (and your snail-mail address so we can send you your mug) in a comment on this post.

Can you pass the image test?

Employees of Carestream Health and their agencies can play, but are not eligible to win. (Sorry about that—no mug for you!) We reserve the right to end the contest at any time. And we’ll announce the winners here on Everything Rad.)

Image-enabling HIE and EHR implementations—the time is now

With the dust still settling from a vibrant HIMSS10 Conference, we are left with the indelible impression that the stars are finally aligning to take healthcare IT to the next level with broad-based EHR implementations that interconnect with the health information exchange (HIE). But amid all the discussion, much of which is positive and engaging, we are left wondering… what about medical imaging?

In our view, the medical imaging community should be working toward image-enabling providers’ Health Information Exchange (HIE) and Electronic Health Record (EHR) initiatives. In the new digital world order in which radiology operates, and the strong impetus provided by the U.S. Government’s focus on Meaningful Use, the ability to exchange diagnostic images across disparate systems and multiple providers will soon evolve from a nice-to-have to key requirement.

That’s because siloed image islands no longer work. Medical imaging is simply too important to high-quality, lower-cost patient care to omit from HIE and EHR implementations. To achieve this goal, we are all going to have to work harder to ensure that imaging has a seat at the table.

It should come as no surprise that interoperability emerged as a key theme at HIMSS—highlighted by the Interoperability Showcase that walked participants through a seamless exchange of patient information across healthcare systems and HIEs. While this exhibit did include imaging, the majority of sessions that our team attended largely ignored the potential issues related to interconnecting the large data sets associated with medical imaging.

That’s why it was both refreshing and encouraging to see the current issue of Radiology Business Journal highlight a number of visionary radiology practices that are working to make imaging part of these efforts. As the article points out, part of the imaging interop challenge is the sheer size of medical imaging data—not to mention the all-important question of who has ownership for funding this effort. The good news: there are currently-available technologies and process models for dealing with the large data sets imposed by imaging. And more dollars are becoming available to fund this important effort everyday.

For EHR implementations to truly improve patient care and reduce costs, the exchange of patient images is going to become a requirement for many providers. While this presents challenges for radiology groups, its ability to deliver tangible value for patients and the healthcare system at large is indisputable. Isn’t that what health reform is all about? 

Is your facility considering how to image-enable its HIE and EHR projects? What do you see as our biggest challenges, or opportunities, in this regard?

– Joe Maune, Carestream Health

Good news for U.S. Providers… 30-day SGR cut reprieve!

The “extender bill” passed yesterday by the Senate and signed by President Obama includes a provision to delay the 21.2 percent physicians’ Medicare pay cut (sustainable growth rate, or SGR) which was scheduled to go into effect yesterday. Carestream Health hopes and expects that the delay will give the legislature enough to pass a more permanent solution.

What do you think Congress will do? What should they do?