A MINUTE in a hospital can be a long time, especially in Intensive Care. Consider the minutes spent between taking an X-ray or other body scans and bringing the film to the doctor. Most hospitals rely on hard copy scans which are moved around to the various specialists involved in the case. As the only internal view of the patient's condition, scans are vital to diagnosis and treatment. But being hard copies, it takes time to move them around and they can be lost. A new medical image management system distributed in Hong Kong by Info-Imaging Services offers a screen-based alternative. 'It can capture the image in diagnostic quality,' said the company's managing director, Susan Mey, as she zoomed in on an image of her knee joint on her Pentium PC view station, with a click of the mouse button. The picture quality on this system is excellent. The resolution is 2,048 by 2,702 pixels with a bit depth of 12 and retrieval is fast. 'You should see no less here than if you put the film up on a light box, and you can do more with it,' Ms Mey said, altering the contrast levels on the image to highlight various features. Doctors using the StatView DX system can examine X-rays or other medical pictures at any linked view station - Intensive Care is an obvious area - using data captured from the X-ray film or the original scanning equipment, in the case of CT (Computer Tomography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans. Images can be rotated, flipped, panned and scrolled and a mapping function allows the doctor to obtain precise locations of areas of interest. A typical StatView DX system consists of a laser scanner, Sun SPARC or IBM 6000 server and several view stations. Because most X-ray machines are set up to transfer their images directly to film, the process begins by scanning the X-ray film through the laser scanner. A Windows based software interface, StatView ScanStation, brings the image into the system. Data from scanning devices can be captured from the signal to the operator's screen. Once in the StatView DX system, the image can be magnified, rotated, measured and mapped with a series of simple mouse clicks. Ms Mey said: 'The main features are very easy for doctors to use.' Several companies supply proprietary viewing equipment but StatView has been designed to operate with multi-vendor X-ray and other source machinery. The system also supports teleradiology - the transmission of X-rays down the phone line. The StatView system is manufactured by US-based E-Systems Medical Electronics (EMED,) which has a dominant share of the US teleradiology and Picture Archival and Communications Systems (PACS) markets. In its basic film distribution format, the StatView DX system can be set up for US$150,000-$200,000 (HK$1.16 million-1.55 million). The laser scanner, at around US$40,000 for a mid-range model, is the single most expensive piece of equipment. 'The input system is the main expense. You are paying for the capture quality,' Ms Mey said. Although the system offers hospitals cost savings, Info-Imaging is marketing it for its potential to improve the standard of health care by improving the sharing of scarce resources between hospitals. 'By the year 2000, 40 per cent of the world's population will be in China, India and Indonesia, so the demands on the health care system will be enormous,' Ms Mey said. The system, launched last year, is in use at the University of Virginia hospital and the VA Medical Centre in Boston, among others. The StatView DX system will be demonstrated in Hong Kong from tomorrow to Sundayat the Roentgen Centenary Congress. The congress is being organised by the Hong Kong College of Radiology to mark the 100th anniversary of the X-ray.