Photo taken by Courtney Perry: © The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

New X-Ray Equipment Provides Unexpected Benefits

In 2019, Helmsley granted $14.2 million in funding for rural hospitals to purchase advanced x-ray technology. Recipients describe how the new equipment became essential during the COVID-19 crisis, while also delivering better and quicker results during time-critical traumas.

“Using new portable x-ray equipment on potential COVID-19 patients led to easier and quicker disinfection between cases,” reported Alan O’Neil, CEO of Unity Medical Center in Grafton, N.D. “It has had an unforeseeable impact on the radiology department.”

At Madelia Community Hospital in rural southwest Minnesota, usage of portable x-ray equipment jumped 25-fold due to its greater efficiency, convenience and patient safety, said Radiology Manager Melissa Hunt.

During the heightened infection controls related to COVID-19, the new portable x-ray eliminated the need to transport patients through the hospital to reach radiology, eliminating potential exposure to other patients and staff.

“We’re just so glad to have this,” Hunt said. “We say it often.”

Madelia staff remark on how hard it would have been to limit COVID-19 exposure for staff and patients using older technology.

“The portable can be brought easily to the patient. It’s easier to wipe and clean. And we can know for a fact that the image is good before we leave the room,” Hunt said. “That has been invaluable.”

Meanwhile, the speed and reliability of the new portable has proven to be a boon for traumas.

“The new x-ray equipment has reduced average patient wait times and enables practitioners to make better decisions more quickly, improving patient care and outcomes,” said Heart of America Medical Center in Rugby, N.D. foundation director Catherine Jelsing. “One provider recently used the portable x-ray to determine tube placement while intubating a patient. Within seconds the tube was properly adjusted. Using the older equipment, that readjustment would have taken minutes.”

“Trauma patients benefit because the new technology quickly produces results and requires less patient movement,” said Karl Sundberg, CEO at South Lincoln Hospital District, Kemmerer, Wyo.

Sundberg reported that in one instance, the new equipment was used to assess a long-term patient who had fallen but could not be taken to the imaging department because of coronavirus risk. In another, it was used to assess the correction of a dislocated shoulder on a sleeping patient, enabling additional adjustments without disturbing the patient.

Hunt echoed this sentiment. When traumas enter the ER, the new equipment “lets the doctor look at the image right then and there in the room,” she said.

The older system had been retrofitted, she said, and its mixed technologies didn’t always work well together. It sometimes disconnected itself from internet, and there was a period when the battery frequently died.

“You would go in to scan a trauma patient, and the device was completely dead,” Hunt said.

The new equipment has also proved beneficial for routine usage. The old equipment made it cumbersome to know whether the image just taken would suffice. Radiation techs had to leave the room for plate processing, returning with the results roughly eight minutes later. If additional scans were necessary, the process repeated itself.

“It really slowed things down,” Hunt said.

Another benefit of the new technology a patient wouldn’t necessarily realize but that x-ray techs appreciate is the reduction in dosage necessary, Hunt said. The new system uses improved software with processing algorithms that permit better image quality using less radiation.

“Especially when we’re radiating pediatrics, it’s nice to give a lower dose than we did before,” she said.