Central’s radiologic technology program jumps on digital x-ray bandwagon

APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. – When digital x-ray equipment reshaped the focus for producing imagery, it wouldn’t be too long before radiology departments shed their film and darkrooms became lighted storage closets.

Central Arizona College’s radiologic technology has quickly followed technology down that digital path by partnering with eRad, Inc., to train students in PACS, the Picture Archive Communications System that is fast-becoming the industry standard.

“This becomes the cornerstone of our program,” Frank Mollica, Central’s director of medical imaging, stated. “It gives our students state-of-the-art image management experience and puts Central Arizona College on par with many healthcare organizations in the region.”

PACS is an image management application that allows Central Arizona College radiologic tech program to be taught in a digital environment. Images are immediately available for review and evaluation because of the efficiencies of digital radiography.

Students can analyze images online from home, while the issues of lost films and overflowing storage space become problems of the past. Expenses for darkroom and processor maintenance, supplies, film and processing chemicals are stripped from the budget line, while the hazardous waste byproduct harmlessly evaporates helping both the environment and the bottom line.

“This system gives students an opportunity to learn using the same type of system used in most clinical settings,” Mollica explained. “Rather than viewing images on film, students review and analyze images on a computer. We can delete substandard images with the ease of hitting a delete button and can archive good images for teaching. Over time, we will build a digital library of images that will enhance our students’ educational experience.”

“Having a PACS in the lab will give our students a chance to work with a system that will dictate their workflow once they graduate,” Mollica said. “This experience will appear on their resumes. Casa Grande Regional Medical Center has the same exact PACS system, so they will already know how to navigate in the software before they even start their clinical rotations.”

The system was installed in early March with students scheduled to get their first hands-on experience in early April. Once they are trained on the software, students will be utilizing the system on a daily basis.

“The Computed Radiography unit is connected to the PACS server so every time we produce an image in the lab, it is automatically sent to the server and then available on our network for review.”

The PACS software is complete with all the digital tools for reviewing, distribution and archiving - the same features used by radiologists in hospital settings.

When the procedure is performed, an electronic original of the study is stored in a small area on a high, uptime server. A copy is duplicated automatically to a redundant drive.

Instructors and students have immediate access to the study locally, as well as via the internet, and students can repeat substandard images in the laboratory environment in a timely fashion. The program offers unlimited access to teaching files and students receive a hands-on PACS experience prior to entering the clinical education setting.

Fast downloads over the Internet and the burning of images to CDs creates easy preparation for presentations, critiques and other educational exercises. The program is intuitive and user friendly, while the software can be simply manipulated for easy view over the web.

PACS allows instructors to control and manipulate images from remote locations, while interesting cases can be stripped of private health information and then imported from regional healthcare organizations for review and evaluation.

Students can maintain a personal file of images for reference and access images from their home computer.

“We are using up-to-date technology to address image generation, the review process, and storage needs while lowering operational costs and improving efficiency,” Mollica stated. “The classroom closely emulates the current clinical environment.”

In addition to the environmental and educational value, the equipment was a bargain since Central Arizona College received it from eRAD as a donation.
“We did not pay for the system,” Mollica explained. “It is difficult to put a price tag on it, but the cost savings is significant. Plus eRad discounted the annual support service are providing round-the-clock remote monitoring.”

A leading supplier of radiology workflow solutions, eRAD installed PACS at Central Arizona College by interfacing the system with the newly acquired Computed Radiography unit to create an all-digital imaging environment.

Both eRAD and Image Medical were founded separately in 1999 before merging in 2001. The eRAD PACS web-accessible archive, teleradiology and workflow solutions have been installed in more than 250 customer sites throughout the United States.


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