Modern diagnostic imaging companies meet many challenges. One of them is image management, especially if you deal with X-ray films. On the one hand, federal and state laws require that images are kept long enough. On the other hand, films are usually fragile and can be easily damaged.
You probably know that image-keeping requirements are very state-specific. The legislation concerning retention periods and storing images of different modalities varies from state to state. Utilization of medical images is a separate issue. In some states (e.g., in Colorado) you should try to contact a patient before destroying his or her records – personally or even through mass media (if you fail to locate the patient). Besides, recycling of X-ray films should be HIPAA compliant (which means that normally you’ll have to call upon recycling agencies and receive a destruction certificate).
So, storing images as films is a somewhat conservative and troublesome way of image management. Therefore, more and more business owners choose to go digital. You would probably ask: “Is it worth going digital if I have been using films for quite a while?” It’s up to you to decide, but today there are plenty of opportunities for that. Some companies even provide services for creating a transformation strategy. But, no matter how individual such strategies might be, they always consist of two basic steps.
Step 1. Digitizing. If you have started your business before the “digital revolution”, you’ll have to convert your images. The most common format is DICOM. However, JPG and TIFF are also available. Here, there are two main ways of action. First, you can purchase or rent an X-ray digitizer and scan your images yourself. Second, you can outsource the task to a digitizing company.
We should note that the most crucial point here is image quality. So if you are going to purchase a digitizer, make sure it is designed especially for clinical needs, reliable, easy to use, and productive. As for productivity, it can be measured as films (usually of a particular format) per hour, or cycle time (in seconds). We would recommend using equipment from trusted manufacturers, such as Kodak, Carestream or GE. If you are going to outsource, it’s better to contact companies specializing in working with medical materials.
Step 2. Choosing storage. Now you’ve got to keep these massive archives somewhere. You will need not just to store the images, but to retrieve and communicate them easily and securely. At this point, you have an alternative:
We have already discussed the benefits of electronic image-keeping. To put it in a nutshell, such images are much easier to store and retrieve, than films. Digitalizing your business may hide some pitfalls, but there are plenty of ways to overcome them. One of such ways is to use a digital health platform with an integrated DICOM viewer and cloud storage. Such software can help you digitize, store and communicate your images, providing maximum convenience and security.