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Adding X-ray to Your Clinic

I began my career as The Radiology Coach when a local clinic invited me to assist in training of their staff to shoot x-rays. It sounded relatively straightforward and I figured the employees knew something about anatomy and x-ray in general. Ugh.

I was wrong. Not only did the staff not know how to operate the equipment, they had been "winging" it for a couple of years! The physician had grown frustrated with the whole process and he figured I could "fix" it in one visit.

Let's face it... x-rays look and sound easy. But there is nothing easy about ANY of it. Starting a department, training staff, understanding equipment, billing, maintenance, etc..can all be achieved, but there are so many BTW's (By The Way"s) that one can easily find themselves inundated with problems.

Embarking on a radiology implementation requires some research, prudence, and determination. You can do it the hard way, or you can do it the HARDER way.

Of course, I am exaggerating a touch, but you get the point. Knowing what I know, if I were establishing my own x-ray department, I would partner with someone who has done it before and could advise me on the pitfalls and secrets of the process.

Additionally, I would hope that person understands strategies of engaging with sales people, the state, physicists, and employees.

All that on the table, the first step in the process is to Google "Radiation Control" in your state. It will usually guide you to either the Department of Health and Human Services or the local environmental agency. From there you'll need to search for rules and regulations and forms.

These will yield grueling "legaleze" documents that will leave you drooling on a quick read. But if you can stomach it, you'll find many of the answers you need.

Next is understanding your equipment when considering a purchase. X-rays come in two parts: 1) The x-ray source, and 2) the x-ray receptor. Life would be much easier if one manufacturer could create a "kit" where an x-ray suite is purchased, installed, and operational. But it ain't that easy.

Most clinics deal directly with third-party resellers when setting up their new department. The office managers rely on the expertise of these x-ray dealers to properly implement the set-up.

Although I advocate associating with these specialists, I do encourage physicians to look to additional resources (wink, to make their decisions.

The reason for this is because you are held hostage to the portfolio of your dealer...meaning they have an assorted selection of products that are fully capable of completing your new setup. But sometimes, unavailable systems are the best solution.

So questions must be asked to determine these outcomes. Do you need a 30 kilowatt generator or a 50 kilowatt generator? Do you require a gliding and/or elevating table? Riciprocating grid or stations grid?

The same considerations must be studied when purchasing your receptors. These are special plates or cassettes that are usually produced by a separate manufacturer than your x-ray source. Determining this purchase is also a little tricky because you want the whole system to work seamlessly. But unfortunately, there are countless examples of doctors who cut corners, insisted on DIY strategies, and gave priority to the lowest bidder. These are often very costly mistakes.

Hiring or training your x-ray staff is a whole new ball of wax. Once your system is installed, acclimating employees in this role can be daunting and frustrating. You see, they are expected to know the equipment, know the patient positioning, know the right amount of radiation to use, and understand what kind of results you want. This is a tall order for those with zero experience.

But you can rely on our The Radiology Coach YouTube channel, blogs, and podcasts to gain insights on how to achieve this the "less hard way". Life is easier to hire a Registered Radiologic Technologist, but their $23 per hour rate might not make much sense for your company. So adequately trading Limited X-ray Operators might be the best approach.

After your department is established and ready, you'll want to seek info on what regulations are required annually from the state. You'll want to consult with your partnered radiologist to gauge the quality of your x-ray images. You'll also read up on equipment maintenance for your x-ray source and receptors.

We'll continue to add more info on these topics so you can feel confident about your processes. We want to partner with you as a valid resource. Consider leveraging our resources to achieve the best x-ray department in your region.

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