SIH News

 Herrin imaging department steps into all-digital future

Southern Illinois Healthcare hospitals recently made the transition to a digital picture archiving system (PACS) for all x-ray and ultrasound images. This made it possible to store and retrieve all images on computer. The images, however, still had to be put on film first and then converted to digital scans. Now, Herrin Hospital has taken the next step by introducing “digital capture,” using filmless x-ray technology. This means faster images with better detail.

It is the first digital capture imaging machine in deep southern Illinois.

Mike Flinn, manager, imaging, said the new technology makes it possible to have an x-ray ready for viewing by a radiologist in just seconds. In addition, because it is digital, technicians can send it over the secure SIH network to any facility, he explained.

“A click of the button sends it to PACS right away where it can be interpreted by a radiologist,” Flinn explained.

In fact, x-ray images at SIH hospitals may be read by radiologists working at Cape Radiology in Cape Girardeau. Though there is a radiologist from Cape Radiology on duty at the hospital, a particular x-ray might be for a condition for which another radiologist is a specialist. That image can now be sent to Cape Radiology and interpreted by the best expert available in a matter of minutes.

According to Flinn, digital capture also produces much better image quality and detail. Digital capture means no processing of film which can result in loss of data.

“I was amazed when I saw the first chest x-ray,” he said. “I could make out clear details of ribs behind the heart. It doesn’t get any more detailed than that. At least, not yet.”

Another advantage of digital capture is that the technologist operating the x-ray machine immediately sees the results and can identify any suspicious areas or problems that may need to be re-imaged.

As SIH information technology develops the PACS system, family practice doctors will also have access to patient x-rays in their offices in a few minutes.

“We’re really excited to be able to offer the latest technology for our patients,” Flinn said. “People need to be aware they no longer have to travel to a larger city to receive the best care. We have it right here in Herrin.”

The Shimadzu digital capture machine is the first at Herrin Hospital and the first in the area. Flinn said in the future all imaging machines at Herrin will use digital capture. Memorial Hospital of Carbondale will introduce digital capture x-ray machines later this summer.

Technologists at Herrin Hospital demonstrate the new digital capture machine. The technologist uses a control panel to operate the recording head on the x-ray machine to create an image that is instantly available digitally on the high resolution viewing screen in the foreground.