Benefits of Modern Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging

Learn about the benefits of modern veterinary diagnostic imaging in this free ebook!

You will:

  • Discover the advances making medical imaging more efficient.
  • Take a close look at the advance DICOM viewer more and more veterinarians are using.
  • See how veterinary health imaging is evolving and some future advancements.
  • Get a precise list of improvements made to diagnostic imaging and their impact.
  • Learn about how vets are finding a better way to work through improved DICOM systems.
  • Discover how sharing and collaborating on images has become seamless for veterinarians and more!

Excerpt

Introduction to Medical Imaging

Long before there were X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and many other imaging techniques, healthcare workers had no way of viewing the insides of their patients’ bodies. They had to rely only on their clinical skills to diagnose illnesses and monitor disease progression.

All of this changed with the discovery of medical imaging, which refers to the process of visualizing the interior of a body without using a surgical procedure. The purpose of this is to aid in the clinical analysis of the person or animal that the imaging is being done for and possibly improve the medical intervention that will be offered. It enables physicians and vets to view the internal organs and tissues that are usually hidden behind skin and bones, making it easier to detect when things have deviated from normal. This makes the processes of diagnosing and treating certain diseases much more straightforward than before these imaging techniques were created.

Evolution of Imaging Modalities 

The first medical imaging modality to be discovered was the X-ray. It was discovered in 1895 by a German physicist named Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen. Like many of the discoveries made in those days, he discovered the X-rays accidentally while performing different experiments. In fact, the “x” in the name was due to the unknown nature of the rays at that time. It was not until many years later that scientists discovered the nature of the rays, their association with ionizing radiation, and their harmful side effects.

Today, much more is understood about X-rays, and scientists and radiologists have come up with ways to reduce and prevent the harmful side effects while still allowing them to be used. In some places, X-rays are referred to as radiographs.

Following the discovery of X-rays, other imaging modalities were discovered. In the 1920s, fluoroscopy was discovered. A couple decades after that, in the 1940s, X-ray tomography (the forerunner of CT) was discovered. The 1950s saw the advent of ultrasound scans, angiography, and nuclear medical imaging modalities. CT was discovered in the 1970s, and MRIs were discovered in the 1980s.

All these different modalities have different functions and specific situations that they are best suited for. Some are ideal for viewing bones, while others are better for viewing certain types of tissue injuries. 

Types of Imaging Modalities 

There are two major groups of imaging modalities, and they differ by the kind of radiation that they produce, which is determined by the amount of energy that they produce and their position along the electromagnetic spectrum.

Ionizing radiation

The first group is those that produce ionizing radiation, like X-rays. This means they can alter some of the molecules in the body cells. They exist on the higher energy end of the electromagnetic spectrum. Prolonged exposure to this may cause damage to the skin or tissue and can even cause different kinds of cancer. Examples of medical imaging modalities that make use of ionizing radiation include CT scans, positron emission tomography scans, fluoroscopy, and nuclear medicine procedures.

Non-ionizing radiation

As a result of the side effects associated with ionizing radiation, newer imaging modalities that do not use ionizing radiation have been developed. These non-ionizing radiation methods exist in the lower energy range of the electromagnetic spectrum. They do not have enough energy to remove or alter the molecules in the body cells, though they are known to produce heat. Examples of medical imaging modalities that make use of this include ultrasound scans and MRIs.

Introduction to Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging 

Veterinary diagnostic imaging is the application of medical diagnostic imaging in veterinary practices. Previously, veterinary doctors had to rely solely on their clinical skills to diagnose and treat their patients. The sensitivity and specificity of these diagnoses were low, and there was the risk that conditions would be undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or diagnosed too late. With the introduction of imaging, there have been many improvements and breakthroughs in veterinary medicine. In turn, it has resulted in marked improvements in screening, monitoring, and diagnosing diseases in animals. Improving the diagnostic capabilities of veterinary doctors has improved the quality of the treatments that they can offer.

The development of dedicated veterinary diagnostic imaging modalities has been slower than what has typically been seen in human medicine. It is only in the last thirty years that significant improvements have occurred in this area. Prior to this, only traditional X-rays produced on film were available. Now, there are digital X-rays, ultrasound scans, MRIs, laparoscopic methods, nuclear medicine functional imaging, positron emission tomography and single-photon emission computed tomography, and thermography.

In addition to the improvements in diagnostic capabilities, these methods are desirable because they are not invasive, they do not alter or worsen the disease process, and they do not cause any unacceptable discomfort for the animals.

Digital Images

After they were first discovered, X-rays had to be captured on special media called “radiographic films.” Much work went into creating these films, and the X-rays had to be done using specialized processes and in specially designed spaces to make sure the films were properly captured.

In the last twenty years, the use of films has been on a decline, and most X-ray and other radiological imaging studies are now done digitally. 

Advantages of digital images 

There are many benefits of this use of digital images, including: 

  • Image protection: One problem with physical films was that they had to be stored under specific conditions to preserve the integrity of the images. Failure to do this would result in the films degrading over time. With digital images, there are no physical copies of the films, so they can be better protected, especially if data safeguards are used. Also, issues such as aging of the images are not encountered with digital copies.
  • No need for storage space: Digital images eliminate the need to find space to store the films, and when the images are no longer needed, they can simply be deleted, with no effects on the environment.
  • Image modification: Digital images can still be edited or manipulated after being captured. Different software can be used to enhance parts of the images, zoom in or out, or generally just work on the image as needed. This is not possible with conventional films. Additionally, conventional films needed to be developed with special chemicals using special methods in darkrooms to prevent damage to them. With digital images, none of this is necessary.
  • Rapid transmission: Digital images can be sent anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds, and if the sending platform is a good one, there will be no difference in the quality of the image being seen by the recipient. Conventional films had to be sent using physical mail or transferred from one place to another so the people who needed to view them had access to them, and this would cause delays in diagnosis or treatment. 

Processing and Storage of Digital Images 

After the images are recorded, it is essential to store them in a way that they can be retrieved for future use. There are different ways of storing images, including:

  • Locally in a computer: While this is convenient, it does not allow multiple people to have access to the images at the same time, unless they all have access to the same computer. You have to send the image to each person who wants to use it. Another disadvantage is that if your computer crashes, gets damaged, or has any issues, and there are no backup copies of the images, they may be lost forever.
  • On transferable devices: This includes devices such as CDs or flash drives. These devices can be distributed to all those who need access to the images, and they can then copy the images to their own computers or laptops. It allows for more sharing options than images that are stored on a local computer, but it can still be limited, especially when the people who need access to the images are not in the same local environment.
  • Remotely: The images could be stored within a cloud or remote server. The advantage of this is that it can be accessed by multiple people with server permission. This is the best and most secure way of storing the images because they are not bound to just one computer or device.

Introduction to Image and Workflow Management Systems 

In modern-day veterinary practices, digital images play an important role, and creating systems that can manage how these images are captured, worked on, stored, and disseminated is a critical part of practice workflow management. Workflow management is the process of identifying, organizing, coordinating, and monitoring tasks or assignments to reach a predetermined goal. Thanks to the technological advancements of the twenty-first century, there is now a variety of software available to help with the creation and automation of workflows. Having the right workflow management software can turn a good office or practice into an amazing one. This is true across every industry, including veterinary. By streamlining the processes within the business and eliminating redundancies, good software can improve the efficiency of veterinary practices in astronomical ways.

As a practice owner or manager, you know that keeping your business operations running smoothly is a major part of your role. You can do this by performing workflow optimization, which improves the organization of an office or practice via processes that reduce costs, improve efficiency, and automate various recurrent tasks. Before beginning this process, though, a thorough assessment of the practice’s needs should be conducted. This will ensure that the implemented interventions will improve existing processes and reduce redundancies in others.

Veterinary workflow optimization is crucial to any practice because it helps create a work environment that is streamlined and hassle-free, reducing chaos and making sure that communication between all relevant parties proceeds smoothly. In the long run, veterinary practice workflow optimization will help reduce the time spent on various daily tasks, reduce costs, improve the efficiency of all the parties that utilize the workflow station, enhance record-keeping, save time, and improve communication between the office manager, specialists, radiologists, referral partners, other facilities, and even clients.

Since image management forms a core part of your practice, much consideration should be put into selecting the right image management platform for your practice. This is where a picture archiving and communication system (PACS) becomes essential.

Introduction to the Asteris Keystone PACS

A PACS is an automated system that optimizes the storage, retrieval, and reporting of radiology images, enabling them to be in a digital format that is accessible from multiple locations. Modern PACS can process images from various imaging modalities, including computed tomography, X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging, and ultrasound. These images are stored using a standard file extension called digital imaging and communication in medicine (DICOM) that enables all the files to be stored in a central location. These systems are invaluable for veterinary medical imaging, and they are important for refining and optimizing the workflow in practices. Therefore, selecting an appropriate veterinary PACS software is crucial for any veterinary practice, and much care should be taken during the selection process.

The Asteris Keystone PACS is a complete end-to-end solution software designed specifically for veterinary practices. It is quite beneficial for the process of veterinary workflow optimization because it streamlines radiology-related workflow, enhances the processes of consultation, diagnosing, and reporting, and boosts practice efficiency and productivity. Asteris as a company believes that changing imaging workflows can have a cascading, positive impact on a business, and it seeks to aid veterinary practices in this process with its Keystone PACS. It’s the only veterinary-specific company that has dedicated itself to dealing with all kinds of manufacturers and modalities with the aim of giving its clients maximum flexibility and satisfaction. The suite is fully DICOM-compliant, and the company will work directly with you to accommodate all standard DICOM modalities. It enables data received from DICOM modalities to be processed in a manner that allows for expansion and changes to the DICOM standard, as published by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. There is also provision for non-DICOM device data to be packaged into DICOM-compliant format and structure.

The Asteris Keystone Software Suite enables the seamless and efficient storage, transfer, retrieval, and reporting of digital images. Changing your imaging workflows can impact the way that you do business. This veterinary PACS software offers improved workflow solutions; greater allowance for the management and processing of images; improved security for data using encryption, hashing, and lossless compression on the cloud-based platform; ample room for collaboration and consultation among all the practice stakeholders; and revolutionary data importing, reporting, monitoring, and sharing capabilities.

Benefits of the Asteris Keystone Suite 

There are numerous benefits associated with using the Asteris Keystone suite as the primary image management system in your practice. These include the following.

Access

It provides effortless storing, accessing, transferring, and sharing of digital images. It has a dedicated online application, and the Asteris Keystone Online app enables you to have remote or mobile access to images, reports, and files from any platform or device, anytime and anywhere.

Image viewing and retrieval

The suite comes with an integrated DICOM image viewer, which enables users to review the images and make diagnoses. The suite also works with other DICOM-compliant image viewers, allowing for better cross-functional integration. It also comes with the ability to perform 2D multi-planar reconstruction, enabling you to easily reconstruct images in multiple planes for greater diagnostic accuracy. 

Ease of transfer and sharing

DICOM and non-DICOM images of any modality can be transferred using the platform, and they can easily be shared with multiple facilities, colleagues, referral partners, and clients for review and interpretation via the Asteris Keystone Community. The patented file packaging method enables you to transfer files across a network on the internet up to three times faster than other PACS, and this requires only half of the storage capacity. Images can be viewed in JPEG format with a web browser or in DICOM format with the free online DICOM viewer.

Seamless integration

The Asteris Keystone PACS has been designed in such a way that it can be integrated into existing diagnostic equipment, radiology information systems, and practice management software. There is no need to completely overhaul your existing system just to install it, which makes it convenient to use. 

Speech-to-text capability

For those who prefer to dictate their notes, the suite has the ability to convert speech to text. 

Report creation

The suite enables you to reduce the time and effort put into creating reports, as it comes with pre-designed report templates and even enables you to create your own templates. 

Scheduling and monitoring

Asteris Keystone can be used to schedule and monitor the status of your radiological examinations with the in-built Modality Worklist/Scheduling feature quickly and easily. This comes with a simple and intuitive user interface. 

Archiving and securing data with the hybrid architecture

The suite provides a means for you to store images locally and off-site. It automatically archives and secures your data in a cloud-based platform. The patented image handling protocol helps you achieve better lossless image compression, faster off-site archival speeds, and more reliable off-site archival than traditional DICOM Send methods. Additionally, it gives you the ability to access and view studies should your practice ever lose internet connectivity. Furthermore, your users will be able to access and view acquired images in real time. This will improve patient care because you will no longer have to wait for studies to archive to the “cloud,” as is the case with other cloud-only-based PACS solutions. You can be sure that your stored images will be secured, as Asteris uses encryption, hashing, and lossless compression algorithms to ensure the highest levels of security and data integrity. One fantastic perk with the suite is that the off-site archival of image data for seven years is included in any package that you purchase, at no added cost.

Recovering lost or damaged data

The in-built data recovery mechanisms can help recover your local files speedily if any of them become corrupted or lost.

No service contracts

Asteris operates a simple pay-as-you-use service model, so you do not have to pay any monthly or annual maintenance fees or costly extended service fees. You can customize your plan to fit your business needs and then pay for as little or as much as you use. 

Customizable solutions

Just like the price, this is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Asteris will work with you to determine what components of the suite best fit your practice. This will take into consideration factors such as whether you need telemedicine and reporting features, the number of office locations in your practice, and the range of imaging modalities that you will use. 

Service and technical support

Technical support is available to all users twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, all year round. The tech team can address any issues that you might have, without the use of third-party services. This, along with automatic software upgrades, is included as part of your plan at no additional charge. You will also have access to monthly reports detailing archiving activity, including the dates that studies were carried out, the dates they were archived, the names of the patients, their owners, the number of images, and the types of image modalities. 

Teleconsultation workflow

The advanced teleconsultation workflow that comes with the suite enables radiologists, specialists, specialty/referral hospitals, and any other stakeholders to expand their Keystone PACS solution and have a full teleconsultation and reporting platform. This gives referring partners the ability to easily send consultation requests to radiologists and specialists while providing a full reporting platform to the receiving radiologists/specialists.

Easy installation and setup

Depending on the size and features of your system, installation and setup can take as little as thirty minutes. No matter the size, Asteris will be with you every step of the way, and for large and complex system setups, a member of the company’s project management team will work with you to guarantee a successful launch. The software is intuitive and easy to use, so a short training session is usually all that is needed. Additionally, since the solutions are designed to work on non-proprietary hardware, you will not need to buy any new hardware to begin using it. You can utilize it on any platform that you have, such as Windows PC or Mac, and you can use it on any browser. The Keystone PACS can even work with other DICOM-compliant image viewers from other providers. The Application Programming Interface enables you to easily store and retrieve patient data, schedule and track examinations, and display diagnostic images within other veterinary software platforms.

Conclusion 

Diagnostic imaging has led to marked improvements in veterinary medical practices worldwide. Getting an image management system that can optimize stakeholder interactions with these images is crucial because this will markedly improve the workflow and efficiency of your practice.

The Asteris Keystone PACS has numerous components that are guaranteed to make the management of digital images in your practice as seamless and straightforward as possible.

Here at Asteris, it’s our goal to help veterinarians make sound medical decisions with ease, clarity, and confidence by giving them the tools and insights that they need to optimize the way they work.
If you’re ready to stop feeling like there’s not enough time in your day, we can help you optimize your imaging processes and the way you work. Contact our specialists today to get started!