Digital X-rays save hospital more than HK$1 million a year

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 December, 2009, 12:00am

Digital X-rays are saving more than HK$1 million a year at Tseung Kwan O Hospital, and doctors hope all public hospitals will be able to dump film.

Tseung Kwan O and Pok Oi, in Yuen Long, are the only public hospitals where the use of conventional X-rays has been phased out. A pilot scheme at three others will be launched next year.

It cost HK$10 to print an X-ray, and about 120,000 images were taken at Tseung Kwan O Hospital annually, so the hospital had saved more than HK$1 million a year, said Dr Henry Huang Yu-hoi, chief of service of the radiology department.

Aside from the expense of conventional X-rays, a doctor said the quality of film could not compare to digital images.

'The advantages of going filmless are that it's quicker, cheaper and better in quality,' Dr Huen Kwai-fun, of the department of paediatrics and adolescent medicine, said.

Images were immediately available, so patients could save on waiting time, get quicker management decisions and start receiving treatment sooner. 'Multiple images can also be viewed simultaneously, so doctors in different places can work together,' Huen said.

'Electronic images can also be manipulated, like zooming in or out or adjusting brightness to achieve clarity. It also spares patients the worry of losing the image and having to take it again,' she said. 'It's my Christmas wish that the government implements the system in ... at least all public hospitals in Hong Kong, because it's impeccable.'

To go filmless, hospitals need a picture archiving and communication system (PACS) that can store, retrieve, distribute and display X-ray images, and a fast and reliable hospital-wide computer network. The price of the system started at HK$3 million and depended on the size of the hospital, Huang said.

With a PACS in place, all images, including magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound scans, were stored digitally. Images could then be shown on a computer monitor almost as large as an X-ray film.

The development of X-ray images was similar to photography, he said.

All public hospitals would ultimately be filmless, but since frontline staff had to adapt to new ways of working, PACS would be phased in. The Hospital Authority was using existing funding to finance the project, a spokeswoman said.

The pilot scheme is in place at North District Hospital in Sheung Shui, Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan and Princess Margaret Hospital in Lai Chi Kok.