New technology makes X-rays faster, easier

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The Memorial Hospital will use a $227,000 grant for technology that can put patient care in the hands of experts around the globe 24 hours a day.

The hospital matched a Colorado Division of Local Affairs grant to purchase two computed radiography readers and a picture archiving communication system.

The systems eliminate the need to print X-rays on film. The readers scan X-rays digitally, bringing the processing time to less than a minute.

"It creates a diagnostic quality digital image," said Chris Winn, radiology manager for The Memorial Hospital.

The technologist scans the image as soon as it's taken. In the process, the patient is never left alone, which differs from a traditional system when the technologist must leave the room to develop prints.

Radiologists still have the option of printing the digital image to film, but Winn said she doesn't expect there to be much need for a printed version of an X-ray.

Instead, doctors will be able to view the X-ray on a computer. The image can be displayed on any monitor, but a special monitor is needed for diagnostic uses.

"It's an incredible system," hospital spokeswoman Pam Thompson said. "We're the only hospital in the Yampa Valley to have many of the capabilities this equipment will give us."

The technology will be most beneficial when a trauma case is transferred to another hospital. Instead of tracking down and sending X-rays with the patient, staff can send images digitally to another hospital, which can then pre-plan care.

The system also will benefit after-hours emergency cases.

In most situations, the emergency room doctor interprets the X-ray and determines the right course of action, interim hospital administrator Susan McGough said. In other cases, the opinion of an expert in a particular field is sought. This system allows that to happen immediately.

"It really will improve our quality of care," Winn said.

The digital processing system was installed and running Tuesday.

"It's fantastic," Winn said. "The technology is superior."

But, the equipment needed to store and send digital prints won't be ready until March.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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