The Living Document: Digitizing Film-Based Radiographs

July 14, 2011

Many smaller radiology departments are still using film-based radiographs to present teaching files in a conference format. This presents a challenge to both the viewer and the presenter due to space limitations around the view box, degradation of film quality, and lack of consistency with format.

Many smaller radiology departments are still using film-based radiographs to present teaching files in a conference format. This presents a challenge to both the viewer and the presenter due to space limitations around the view box, degradation of film quality, and lack of consistency with the actual American Board of Radiology oral boards’ format. This problem can be overcome by converting to a filmless environment.

In a recent article accepted for publication by the Journal of Digital Imaging entitled "Our Path to a Filmless Future" my colleague, Eric Ledermann, and I describe the challenges that we faced in trying to address this issue.

We evaluated different options to digitize the film-based teaching files at our institution. The option that we found the most cost and time efficient was utilizing a consumer-grade scanner to scan the radiographs into the computer. This decision was also based on features such as resolution, shades of gray, a built-in transparency function in the scanner, and the physical attributes of the scanner. We suggested that after the teaching file library was stored in a HIPPA compliant manner in the cloud, it could be updated with additional information about the cases and hyperlinked to a Google document. This method would occur over time through resident interaction and be called "The Living Document," which denotes its dynamic nature.

I have already done this with a large number of my personal teaching cases from residency and was pleasantly surprised to see the results when I most recently purchased a Logitech Revue System (aka Google TV). Utilizing the gallery function, one is able to view their uploaded image database with almost diagnostic clarity on any flat panel TV for no additional monthly fee. In addition, one is able to access Google documents using this platform, which would allow for access to The Living Document.

After creating a Google account for your document and imaging database, one can access this information from any mobile device or any viewing device with access to a high speed Internet connection. I have no financial ties to Google and only suggest this method amongst others because of its ubiquity and high fidelity.

I envision a future where the myriad challenges we face in sharing and accessing information no longer exist. When it comes to digitizing film-based libraries and utilizing this information, either individually or in a conference format, the future is now.

I am excited by the possibilities of current technological advances in imaging storage and retrieval and will continue to research this topic. I look forward to developing relationships with individuals in other disciplines, such as 3D animation, digital art, and mathematics to make this technology as inexpensive and convenient to the end user as possible. Please join me in forging ahead to make the concept of The Living Document a reality and making teaching files that were once considered inaccessible readily available to those who can benefit from them.