Digital mammography results in technologists' time savings but physician time loss

Digital mammography saves technologists' time, but increases physician time compared to film screen mammography, a new study shows.

Researchers at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago compared acquisition and interpretation time for 100 digital and 100 screen film mammograms.

Technologists spent an average 21.6 minutes acquiring screen film mammograms and 14.1 minutes for digital mammograms, a 35% time savings, said Eric A. Berns, PhD, research assistant professor in the department of radiology. Screen film mammograms require that the technologist leave the room, process the films and check to see if the films are okay before releasing the patient, which is a main reason for the increased acquisition time, he said.

On the other hand, digital mammograms resulted in a 57% increase in physician interpretation time -- 2.3 minutes compared to 1.4 minutes for screen film, Dr. Berns said. "Interpretation takes longer with digital images because the physician reads on a softcopy review workstation which requires manual image manipulation that isn't as efficient quite yet as reading a screen film study on a viewbox or alternator," he said.

There's been a lot of discussion about increasing patient throughput to meet a facility's financial goals, said Dr. Berns, and digital mammography can do that. However, the increased patient throughput needs to be balanced with the cost and capabilities of the physician reading the images, he said. "In addition, it must be balanced with what's realistic for the technologists. More mammograms each day doesn't necessarily equate with better patient care," he said.

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The study appears in the July issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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