Cavalier County Memorial Hospital’s (CCMH) Department of Radiology was awarded a grant for $282,213 for the purchase of two digital radiography x-ray machines. The Helmsley Charitable Trust awarded CCMH and Clinics the grant funding as part of a $14.2 million initiative to upgrade x-ray technology at 50 rural hospitals in the upper midwest.
By Melissa Anderson
“Moving our radiology department to all digital images will not only provide our radiologist with clearer images but increase the speed of the exam,” said Jeff Stanley, CCMH and Clinics CEO. “I am very grateful to the Helmsley Charitable Trust for approving this grant that will have a huge impact on patient care at CCMH and Clinics.”
CCMH Radiology Department head Pat Bredeson applied for the grant to bring CCMH in line with the American College of Radiology (ACR) guidelines to have the digital radiology (DR) equipment. From time of submission to learning they had been accepted was about three months.
“The American College of Radiology has pushed DR for any facility because the radiation dose is so low,” Bredeson said.
The Helmsley Charitable Trust’s latest initiative addresses out-of-date x-ray technology that underserves patients and jeopardizes the health of physicians and x-ray technicians, according to Panzirer. Walter Panzirer, a trustee for the Helmsley Charitable Trust, said that the initiative represents the organization’s latest multi-site initiative to improve the quality of healthcare available to rural residents in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming.
“Our goal has always been to improve access to exceptional medical treatment for those who live in rural America,” said Panzirer. “To that end, rural hospitals need to remain viable and have the latest equipment to ensure their patients can receive essential, quality healthcare services locally. This initiative is just one of many that strives to improve healthcare outcomes throughout the upper midwest.”
Panzirer said critical access hospitals in the seven-state region are hampered by outdated equipment. Over the last four years, the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Rural Healthcare Program has awarded more than $30 million in grants to 82 hospitals in the upper midwest to purchase state-of-the-art computer tomography (CT) scanners.
“With one particular grant to a rural North Dakota hospital, the trust is replacing an x-ray device that has been in service since 1967,” Panzirer said. “Technology has advanced so much, even over the last decade, that these grants allowing for the purchase of advanced x-ray devices will provide incredible benefits for medical workers and their patients for the foreseeable future.”
The x-ray machines purchased with the grant funds, one portable and one stationary, provide many advantages to the radiology techs. The portable x-ray allows the techs to go to patients that cannot reach the radiology room. Both machines utilize digital radiology technology, making the entire x-ray process easier and safer for everyone.
“With DR I see the image come up immediately. I don’t have to wait. Patients don’t have to wait. It’s less radiation. The image quality is better. A lot of advantages to the digital unit when we are so concerned about radiation exposure,” Bredeson stated.
Digital radiology uses x-ray–sensitive plates that directly capture images during the patient examination, immediately transferring it to a computer system where it can be viewed by the radiology tech. The hospital will save money from lower film cost and reduced requirement for storage space. The images are instantly available for distribution to the clinical services without the time and physical effort needed to retrieve film packets and reviewing previous imaging on a patient is much easier.
“We have to provide what is necessary for patient care,” Bredeson said.
The professional radiology community, both national and international, have been working to develop ways to limit the production of man-made radiation for years. The most significant source of this type of radiation comes from patients undergoing medical examinations and procedures. The American College of Radiology developed a practice guideline for digital radiography already in 2007 which has since been amended four times. The most recent amendment was made in 2017.
The intent of the guideline is to provide guidance and assistance in the understanding and clinical use of digital radiography equipment in order to deliver necessary image quality at an appropriate radiation dose- ultimately, to provide excellent safety and care for patients undergoing digital radiography examinations.
The radiology department underwent four days of training to learn how to operate the new machines. The radiology department was down for a total of two weeks as the room underwent renovations for the new stationary unit.
“We had the portable, so we weren’t turning any patients away. We were still continuing to do our work,” Bredeson said.
While the new equipment doesn’t change anything in regards to protocols, it will make a significant difference to the staff and patients. The quickness of the machine will give shorter time from being taken to being sent to the radiologists. Clarity of the x-rays allow the radiologists a better view to make their diagnoses.
“We all like it. It’s really user-friendly. The image quality is awesome. We like it a lot,” Bredeson shared.
The new x-ray machines have not changed the CCMH radiology techs’ jobs or job description. They are all still required to be registered radiology techs. For Bredeson, who has been a tech for over 30 years, the advancements made during her career have been huge.
“I started out with the processor film. So we are talking advancement over all these years which is awesome in radiology or any medical position that we have come to,” Bredeson shared.
The increased efficiency and the reduced radiation exposure provide a significant improvement in patient services at CCMH.