When veterinary dentist J.R. “Bert” Dodd converted to digital radiography in his private practice four years ago, it wasn’t because he craved the faster processing or the improved imaging or the cost savings of eliminating film and chemicals, or the easy image archiving.
It wasn’t any one of those things. It was all of those things.
“I tell veterinarians that a digital oral radiology system is just about the best investment a veterinary hospital can make, and I’ve invested in a lot of equipment over the years,” says Dodd, DVM, Dipl. AVDC.
“The system can pay for itself in a short time—six to eight months—and then it becomes all profit,” adds Dr. Dodd, now a clinical associate professor practicing at the veterinary medical teaching hospital at Texas A&M University.
“You can diagnose more, and diagnosing leads to more treatment as well as better care.”
Adding up all the benefits made digital a no-brainer for Dodd’s individual practice. And now that he’s teaching as well as treating patients, it makes even more sense, he says.
“We have so many students here taking pictures, if we were using film, we wouldn’t even have enough developing trays to get the job done,” he adds.
At Texas A&M, Dodd is working with digital radiography equipment from AFP Imaging of Elmstead, N.Y., which allows a mixed-animal practice—or teaching hospital—to use a CADR system both in the field and in the clinic. What’s more, the ViewAll Vet software accommodates whole body and dental.
“I like that they’re willing to work to modify the software so it better fits veterinary applications,” Dodd says. “I’m now using a template with a pattern of a dog’s mouth as opposed to a human mouth.”
The ease of use and speed of digital helped win over Mark Schreiber, DVM, of Moxey Schreiber Veterinary Hospital, a mixed-used practice near Sheridan, Wyo.
“If you’re thinking of getting an entire system and all you take is the occasional set of two or three films, I’m not sure the time savings would be enough,” Dr. Schreiber says. “But when you’re taking 36 views on a horse as part of a prepurchase exam, well, I can save as much as 30 minutes.”
Like Dodd, Schreiber has an AFP DR system and appreciates that he and the five other doctors at the practice can use the same software for dental, large animal and small animal.
“For usability, training and archiving, it’s all nicer,” he notes.
Dealing with electronic images and files is a particular pleasure, compared with trying to manage hard files, Schreiber adds. Storage and retrieval are space- and time-savers. Plus, clients seem to like that he’s able to show them the digital image behind a diagnosis.
“Most clients are not extremely sure what they’re looking at anyway, so we have to describe what they’re seeing,” he notes. “But it’s nice that we’re able to bring them in and use multiple locations in the clinic so they can take a look.”
Dodd says he often converts X-ray images to jpegs so he can e-mail them to clients or, better yet, print them so the pet owners can take them home. That way, clients have something tangible to study, giving them a better appreciation for why a procedure was necessary.
An added bonus: Pet owners tend to share the printouts with friends and neighbors or post them on the refrigerator. The practice benefits from a little “subliminal marketing,” as Dodd calls it.
“The educational benefit is tremendous,” he adds. “I can also e-mail the X-ray to a referring vet, and then we can discuss it while we’re both looking at the same image.
“It’s great that when we’re talking about a case and there’s some confusion, I can say, ‘Just look at your computer. The X-ray is on its way.’ ”
Looking for more benefits from DR? Dodd can offer a few that might not be obvious at first consideration. For instance, he says it’s much easier to keep work areas clean without processing chemicals around.
“That stuff stains everything it gets on,” he notes.
In addition, there’s the growing issue of disposal, says AFP Imaging’s Kevin Gouvin, national sales manager for veterinary and medical. Increasingly, processing chemicals are being regulated as hazardous waste, which means paying a company for recovery and disposal.
“I see a lot of wet labs, and I’ll tell you this: Once they change (to digital), they never look back,” Gouvin says.
Before practitioners make the switch to digital imaging, Gouvin also helps them project their return on investment. About 99 percent lease the equipment, with many paying less than $200 a month.
“You don’t have to charge a fortune, just be consistent with what you charge,” Gouvin says. “Most clients won’t argue, because they want what’s best for their pet. They know better diagnosis can put years on their animal’s life.”
After 18 years of using film, Dodd says he didn’t need much convincing. And now he has a substantial list of benefits to validate the switch.