Digital imaging surfaces in chiropractic clinics

September 8, 2005

The wave of digital imaging continues to extend its reach throughout the medical enterprise. It has now reached the shores of chiropractic.

The wave of digital imaging continues to extend its reach throughout the medical enterprise. It has now reached the shores of chiropractic.

"Digital imaging is just starting to enter the chiropractic realm," said Dr. Timothy Mick, a chiropractic radiologist at the Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, MN.

As elsewhere, early adoption of digital imaging was rooted first in chiropractic academia.

Life Chiropractic College West (LCCW) in Hayward, CA, made the transition from film-based radiography to computed radiography approximately two years ago. The college also has a PACS.

The decision to pursue CR over digital radiography was cost-based. But it also addressed the need to maintain a film-capable environment for demonstration and instruction, said college president Dr. Gerard W. Clum.

"Our environment is somewhat unique due to the demand for a considerable number of diagnostic quality workstations and general viewing stations for our radiologists, clinical faculty, and interns, who number approximately 175," Clum said.

The nonclinical advantages of digital imaging include ease of access, opportunity for collaboration, the presence of multiple access points, and image security, he said.

LCCW had to counter nostaglia for feel-the-film comfort.

"For some of our faculty, it was difficult to get past the idea that they couldn't hold the film in their hands and couldn't alter the illuminating source as they had in the past," Clum said.

One of the biggest issues facing chiropractic clinics migrating in a digital direction is the learning curve, particularly since vendor support is largely nonexistent, according to Mick, president of the American Chiropractic College of Radiology.

The lower end units finding their way into chiropractic establishments come with far less support than a $300,000 digital modality bought by a hospital, he said. This is especially true in terms of image transmissions.

"Acquiring images in clinics hasn't been a big issue, but being able to transmit images over a teleradiology network has been problematic," Mick said. "The network infrastructure is an issue everywhere because of the size of digital images."

Mick said it's not surprising that the first chiropractors embracing digital imaging are "a little bit bold and a little bit techie."