When the new digital mammography equipment is installed this month, Rumford Hospital’s Medical Imaging Department will be fully digital. The implementation of digital mammography is a regional initiative within the Central Maine Medical Family. Led off by the installation of the digital equipment in July at the Sam and Jennie Bennett Breast Care Center at CMMC, followed by the December installation at Bridgton Hospital, the initiative’s final phase will be completed in January 2009 at Rumford Hospital.

Purchasing the digital mammography units for all three facilities allowed for large group discount pricing. In addition, a grant from the Avon Foundation helped the two smaller, rural hospitals in the system – Bridgton Hospital and Rumford Hospital – obtain the equipment. Digital mammography means that the image can be seen immediately by mammography experts at the Bennett Breast Care Center. In addition, digital images are sharper.

There’ll be no more ghostly shapes of film x-rays on the wall in Rumford Hospital Medical Imaging. The X-ray machines are still in place. The new digital cassettes even look like the old film holders, but the mechanics have become state-of-the-art. Patients definitely benefit when their x-rays can be shared electronically. For instance, an emergency physician treating the Rumford victim of a car accident that happened in Lewiston could have immediate access to “baseline” x-rays before proceeding with treatment.

Although patients don’t notice many changes, the radiology technologists are noticing a lot of differences. Instead of going into a darkroom and putting film through a processor, they go to the nearest of two CR readers, which scans the image from the cassette. With film x-rays, if they were too light or too dark, the techs had to retake them. With the new technology, they can tweak the image, improving its brightness or contrast. The technologists cannot alter the digital x-ray, just make it easier to read.

Gone is the bulky x-ray filing system, after time limits for keeping reference x-rays are expended. Instead, the picture archival communication system – PACS – will store images on a computer hard drive. Technologists can also burn images onto a CD or laser print them onto film that looks much like old x-ray film. PACS is a time-saver for the techs and means improved safety for patients. Because the techs need enter the patient information only once, there is less chance that retyping or copying will alter the data.

The radiology information system – RIS – allows physicians to place electronic orders with an electronic signature. The techs retrieve those orders and take the x-ray. The radiologist reads it, and the RIS holds his/her report, the results of the x-ray. Now it can be included in the electronic medical record.


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