Weighing the Costs Between Standard Film or Computed Radiography

Chiropractic offices have traditionally kept pace with other medical practices in their use of technology. From patient records to billing, many chiropractors are better managing patient care, thanks to evolving technology.  More and more technological advancements are making their way into chiropractic practices. Today’s technology is not only streamlining chiropractic office administration, it’s arming these practices with better diagnostic tools. 

Weigh Costs vs. Savings

Switching from traditional X-ray films to a digital or computed radiography (CR) scanning system whose advantages are vast may seem enticing, but the bottom line questions are still, “Is such a system affordable for my practice?  Will the benefits outweigh the costs; and how long before I can recoup my investment in a digital system?”

Prices are coming way down and that has helped make the up-front investment more affordable for more and more chiropractors.  The new systems are suitably sized and priced for the private office.  That fact, combined with the long-term savings to be realized from the elimination of disposables such as film and chemicals, as well as freedom from frequent maintenance and waste disposal, makes the transition to digital an attractive proposition worth serious consideration.

In addition to doing away with X-ray film, costly chemicals, hazardous chemical disposal and film processor maintenance and repairs, digital imaging eliminates the need for sizeable film storage facilities and a dedicated darkroom.  The space savings alone provides a valuable advantage, allowing you to reclaim precious room that can be utilized for patient care.  The annual savings for a practice that takes as few as eight films a day can be as high as or even higher than $9,000 after switching to digital.

So, where does that leave you on the cost side of the equation?  Until very recently, digital and computed radiography imaging systems were priced well out of the reach of the average chiropractic office.  Today, however, there are a number of companies offering these systems that provide all of these advantages at a much more reasonable price.

Realistically, you are looking at an investment of between $32,000 and $40,000 for a computed radiography scanning system.  So, if you are taking eight or more films a day and saving approximately $9,000 every year (see chart), that means that, over the course of four to five years, you will have paid for the system with the savings.  From that point forward, you can start banking the savings. Obviously, a practice that is doing a larger number of daily X-rays would reach a breakeven point more quickly and recoup the cost of the system faster.

How Does CR Work?

The CR processor uses a special re-useable imaging plate containing photosensitive storage phosphors that retain the image until it is sent to the computer. These plates can be reused thousands of times before being replaced. X-rays are taken in the usual manner. The plate is then removed from its cassette, inserted into a scanner where the image is scanned, and automatically transferred to your computer in less than a minute. You’ll know right away if you need to take another view, so there’s less waiting for you and the patient.

Great Patient Education Tool

The beauty of digital is in the fact that you can enhance the image to bring out diagnostic detail.  You can magnify, heighten contrast, and even colorize the affected area.  It’s a great way for chiropractors to educate their patients about treatments and better demonstrate a misalignment or disk problem. For example, you can do a side-by-side comparison with a prior X-ray to show positive therapeutic changes. Your patients will actually be able to see, as well as feel, the physical improvement after treatment.

Dramatic Decrease in Need for Retakes

You have greater latitude in getting good readable images.  Digital is much more forgiving of exposure errors because it has a wider dynamic range than film.  If an image is under or over exposed, the computer can adjust for the error and provide a very useable image.  With film, an error in exposure often means that the X-ray must be repeated, which means that the patient must be irradiated a second time.  This is not only inconvenient, but results in unnecessary added radiation exposure. With digital, there are significantly fewer retakes. 

Is CR Right for Your Practice?

Computerized radiography offers the advantage of quick image access and does away with the need for stockpiling, searching and copying films.  All images are saved for easy retrieval on the computer system and stored on secured backups.

You can transmit digital images electronically in an instant to a colleague across town for consultation or diagnostic confirmation.  The image can be e-mailed while the patient is still in your office. If a patient wishes to have a copy of his or her X-rays, the images can simply be burned onto CD’s in a matter of minutes for just pennies. Simply hand the CD to your patient to take with him.

In addition, CR is a superior method of radiography because it’s faster; you can shave 10 to 15 minutes off a patient’s office visit.  Plus, digital images can be enhanced for greater clarity so that more diagnostic information can be derived from them.  Also, instead of manually drawing measurements directly on the film using a ruler and protractor, the computer can be programmed to automatically provide accurate measurements for you.

The use of computed radiography eliminates concerns about environmentally hazardous chemical waste disposal.  Across the country, government regulations continue to make disposal increasingly more costly and difficult.

Select the Right System and Service

If you do decide that your office could benefit from the advantages of computed radiography, make sure that you research not only the systems, but also their customer support.  As a new user of unfamiliar technology, the technical assistance, training and service a dealer and manufacturer can provide is critical.  While it’s easy to use, you and your staff will still need to learn how to adjust to and use the new equipment, and you’ll want to be able to quickly troubleshoot problems and get answers right away.  Make sure the manufacturer provides excellent customer service.

Many of today’s newer offices are fully computerized and are starting out paperless and filmless.  But practices with existing film radiography in place have to weigh the benefits of digital against its costs.  If you are doing a considerable amount of scans each day, then the advantages of switching are obvious; but for those practices that take less than five scans per day, the decision may be less focused on savings and more on getting faster, better results and maintaining a cleaner environment.  CR provides the practitioner with a paperless office where images are conveniently stored with each patient’s file on the computer hard drive and in backup systems.

Since 1985, Fred Fischer has been the senior executive at ALLPRO Imaging, a manufacturer of X-ray equipment for the medical profession. The company was founded in 1962.

Fred Fischer has been the senior executive at AllPro Imaging, Inc., a manufacturer of X-ray equipment for the medical profession, since it was established in 1985. A native of Hollywood, CA, Fred is a graduate of Manhattan College with a degree in electrical engineering. After his discharge from the service, Fred worked as an electrical engineer at RCA Corp., and was later a salesman for the Electrodyne Division of Becton Dickenson Corp.

For more information about ALLPRO and the ScanX 14, call Linda Schutt at 516-214-5611 or e-mail [email protected]. Also, visit ALLPRO’s website at www.allproimaging.com.

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