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Physicians at Baltimore VA Say They Prefer Filmless Radiology System

Physicians at Baltimore VA Say They Prefer Filmless Radiology System

BOSTON--A medical center that has gone to a completely filmless radiology department got a show of support from the medical and surgical staff.

In a survey conducted after the system had been in use for three years, more than three fourths of respondents (78%) at the Baltimore VA Medical Center said they strongly preferred the filmless system over conventional x-ray film. Only 7% said they still preferred film, and 15% had no preference.

The Picture Archival and Communications System (PACS) in operation at the Baltimore VA is a digital medical imaging network that can be used by the entire hospital staff for storing and retrieving radiologic images. Overall, PACS results in increased efficiency, improved availability of images, and better use of physicians' time, lead investigator Zenon Protopapas, MD, said at the American Roentgen Ray Society annual meeting.

Dr. Protopapas, who was on the radiology staff at the VA hospital when the study was conducted, is now affiliated with the Hospital of St. Raphael, New Haven, Conn.

Questionnaires were mailed to 280 attending physicians, residents, and physician assistants, most of whom worked both at the filmless Baltimore VA and the film-based University of Maryland Hospital. The response rate was 40%.

The feeling that the filmless system contributes to a more efficient use of clinical time was almost universal, with 90% of respondents in agreement. Close to 80% of those surveyed said the filmless system actually saved time--on average, 36 minutes per day per physician. The respondents reported accessing the system a median of three to five times a day.

More than half (57%) said that PACS use did not change the frequency with which they consult with radiologists; 35% reported a decreased frequency, and 8% reported an increase.

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