George Myatich, VMD, doesn’t claim to be a technological wizard. But, then, he has found he doesn’t have to be, even as he vaults into the digital age of veterinary medicine.
In November, when Dr. Myatich converted his Hidden Valley Animal Clinic of McMurray, Penn., to digital radiography, he ditched his wet system and film cassettes without trepidation, he says.
“I’ve been in practice for 34 years, so I’m an old-school veterinarian,” Myatich says. “But since I was first introduced to digital radiography about five years ago, I’ve been rolling around the idea and wanting to take advantage of the benefits.”
Getting an image in five to eight seconds was a key benefit that helped hook Myatich on digital. So was the chance to manipulate images to improve the quality or to focus on an area of highest concern.
However, he says, it was the ease of the transition to digital radiography that cemented his appreciation for the new technology.
“Our technicians were eager to make the change, and it turned out it wasn’t that big of a challenge for any of us. I’m not an Einstein, but everything was fairly straightforward.”
Like Myatich, Stanley Diment, DVM, practice owner and doctor at Clermont Animal Hospital in Florida, has operated his clinic for more than a dozen years. He calls his practice’s conversion to a SimonDR digital radiography system about two years ago “one of the best things I’ve done in a long time.”
“We pulled the plug on the old system and (on the same day) plugged into the new, and within three to four weeks, everyone had it down. The learning curve was shorter than I expected–the technicians were on top of things right away. For the doctors, it probably took a bit more time.”
Customer support was a key consideration for Myatich and his staff of technicians and associate veterinarians, several of whom he included in the process of considering purchase options.
It was during the vetting stage that Myatich welcomed into his clinic the people he respectfully calls “the suits.” SimonDR brought in its technical people from its main office, plus a team of installers, to set up new equipment and “show us what it was capable of doing,” Myatich says.
“Those images we saw with the suits and what we have today are exactly identical. There’s no question that we were right to put a lot of emphasis on demonstration and support. Now if we have a question, they respond very quickly.”
What Myatich says he and his staff learned as much as anything was that the digital process is exceedingly user-friendly. Some of the clinic’s technicians have been with the practice for more than 20 years and so might have been expected to resist change.
They caught on right away and embraced the new system, Myatich says.
“We all had to learn how to measure and how to put the initial information in, which is the most important part–to make sure the screen shows all the information you need to generate an image. Once that’s in, one, two, three, you’re ready to go.”
Dr. Diment has also learned that troubleshooting problems with the system can be easier with digital. One time the system crashed right before closing time on a Saturday, and company repair technicians were waiting when he opened the doors on Monday morning.
But that half-day of repair work was the exception, he says. Otherwise it’s been minor tweaks that have been diagnosed and fixed remotely and almost immediately, he says.
Because the process is simpler, faster and doesn’t involve wet processing or the expense of film, Myatich finds there’s far less disincentive to take X-rays, especially in borderline cases. And he’s not the only one. Overall, the clinic has probably quadrupled the number of X-rays it’s taking, he says.
“The quality of the images is unbelievable compared to the old system,” he adds. “With some of the radiographs of the bone system, you can see so much detail. We are more apt to see a subtle fracture.
“Say a dog was hit by a car. We might question whether we could see a fracture to one or more of the toes. This unit will find it.”
Now that veteran staff members are trained in and comfortable with the digital system, the clinic’s program of training new technicians is a breeze, Myatich says. It takes less than an hour, including practice X-rays, to bring new staff members up to speed.
Those doing the training then monitor the newcomers to make sure there are no lingering questions or concerns.
For Diment, it now seems funny to remember that the process of converting to digital began with a fair amount of concerns–his own as well as those of his staff members.
“There’s always a fear factor,” he says. “The technicians hear about it, but they wonder how complicated it will be to learn.”
In the end, the benefits of digital won everyone over. And Diment as well as his technicians “jumped off the diving board with both feet.”
Diment’s message to others: Come on in, the water’s fine.
“We’re practicing better medicine,” he says, “which is the ultimate measure of a new technology.”