Murphy's Law... One day before this year's Super Bowl, my 10-year-old TV gave up the ghost. Forced to go emergency shopping, the adage, "They don't build 'em like they used to" came to mind as I gazed upon a wall of bright, ultra-thin LCD displays at the electronics superstore. Gone forever were the bulky analog TVs of old. Technology and consumers had moved on.
The same was evident with X-ray technologies on display at RSNA 2011. While "workflow" and "dose" were much-discussed, and PET/MR technology captured a share of the spotlight, most surprising to this publisher was the buzz surrounding digital detector and mobile digital radiography (DR) technology. Vendors – including those who provide heavy-iron technologies that typically attract the greatest attention – placed heavy emphasis on their new or emerging digital X-ray solutions. This was something I haven't seen in years.
DR technology, like flat panel televisions, is hardly new. Both have existed for years. The challenge both initially faced was that of cost. A decade ago, I just couldn't justify laying out heavy green to view content offered by networks or cable providers on a state-of-the art screen. Healthcare providers faced a similar challenge with DR. Ten years ago, despite the promised benefits of improved workflow and PACS integration, transitioning from film to digital technology was cost-prohibitive. For the most part, DR remained in the background, taking a back seat to lower-cost solutions like computed radiography.
But at RSNA 2011, the paradigm changed. New DR solutions took center stage. A spotlight shined on digital detectors that can be retrofitted to work with, and shared between, conventional X-ray systems. Wireless detectors generated iPhone-like excitement. Mobile X-ray systems – "meat and potato" technology – climbed to the top of the menu with the “secret sauce” of digital detectors.
Why the sudden shift? Perhaps one reason is that vendors had not only listened closely to the needs and challenges of healthcare providers, but also responded with solutions enabling them to transition from film to digital in a logical, economically feasible way. From my perspective, I find it extremely gratifying to see those looking for solutions, and those delivering them, in sync. The end result is a positive one.