Running a practice means balancing a number of priorities, from providing the best possible care for patients to
meeting the needs of employees to profitability. Making the decision to upgrade existing equipment can be difficult at
the best of times, but when the upgrade will involve an investment of tens of thousands of dollars, plenty of due
diligence and systematic decision-making is necessary.
Switching from an analog imaging system to a digital one is a valuable upgrade for a growing number of chiropractic
practices. There are many good reasons to consider going digital, but there are several factors to consider. One of
the first steps to take is an analysis of how much using an analog system costs.
The two biggest concerns are film and space. Film, and the associated costs to develop it, can be expensive. The square footage required to store it, may also be expensive. Could that space be used differently? Would a different use offer profitability or savings for the practice? Once it is clear how much a practice is spending on analog imaging, it may be easier to evaluate the costs associated with making the switch to digital.
However, understanding the cost involved is only a piece of the decision-making process. Technology—and more importantly how it is applied—is changing rapidly. Some of the radiography technology available to chiropractors today was out of reach 10 years ago, and it is likely that it will continue to improve.
At the most basic, simple level, there are two broad types of digital systems available for chiropractic offices:
- direct radiography (DR)
computed radiography (CR)
There is a third category. Charge-coupled devices (CCD) are a type of DR, but are increasingly popular choice for chiropractic centers.
All three types eliminate the need for film, storage area, and a darkroom, and allow image manipulation. Speed, image resolution, the ability to apply various filters and algorithms to images, and upfront investment required are three of the big considerations for most practices.
Each of the three systems has upsides and drawbacks. For instance, DR is faster but CR is generally less expensive. There are many various options within each category, as well. Taking the time to become familiar with the terminology, equipment, and processes is a helpful step.
Becoming familiar with the available systems is important; talking to practitioners who use them day-to-day is useful as well. Observing how images are obtained, then seeing the results along different ways to obtain information through image manipulation may be a critical step in the process.
A thorough cost-benefit analysis of making a switch from analog to digital imaging may take a period of several months. Getting a broad overview through research, then talking to representatives from different suppliers and manufacturers, learning what peers and colleagues think, and seeing various systems in use are each critical to determining whether or not making a switch from analog to digital imaging is the best step for a given practice.