What is important in medical diagnostic displays?
Some people think that medical diagnostic displays are just monitors, but this is not the case. These displays are some of the most crucial and powerful tools employed in medicine today.
Image Credit: Advantech
One must know a bit about how they are used in order to speak intelligently on the topic, and why they are different from their consumer grade cousins. This article will outline the four ways these displays are different and how they are utilized.
Is that black or is that gray: Quality assurance and calibration makes that clear
Performing regularly scheduled calibration is the single most vital thing that medical diagnostic facilities have to ensure when working with medical diagnostic displays.
The reason why this is so critical for medical imaging displays is to ensure the best image quality and to guarantee that light levels are the same throughout the screen not only at present, but also as the monitor ages over time.
Under typical use, LCD displays can last over a decade, but the light source for backlit screens does not last nearly as long. Bulbs become dimmer as they age, and their ability to show color or shades of gray becomes unbalanced.
For the physicians and medical professionals that translates into a loss of quality images and can mean an incorrect or missed interpretation for the patient. This is what the malpractice attorneys lust after in this very litigious world, the proverbial smoking gun.
If there is a missed diagnosis or medical malpractice case, attorneys will frequently subpoena the maintenance records of the displays utilized for interpretation. Asking to see the maintenance reports and calibration records on the diagnostic monitors used on their client could be enough to begin to build a potential case.
Generally, medical monitors are only covered under warranty for five years. This is because the five year mark is when the projection lamps usually start to age and deteriorate after typical use.
Usually, to guarantee their diagnostic quality, these displays include a built-in monitoring system. These sensors limit the down time for these monitors and no longer require a tech to physically test each monitor (an example of True IoT Technology).
Medical diagnostic imaging is not only critical for the diagnosis, identification, treatment and prevention of disease it is also a very high money maker for these facilities. Having these machines down or under testing slows down the facility, costing time and money.
What standard are these monitors held to and how is it completed?
DICOM is the testing standard for diagnostic monitors. A photometer (a device for measuring the intensity of ultraviolet, infrared, or visible light) is held to the screen manually or the display may have a built-in front sensor attached to the bezel for a display to be DICOM-calibrated.
Whilst, due to their versatility, color monitors might be preferred, it is much easier for QA to maintain calibration of monochrome displays. Uniformity of colors can be challenging over time and requires closer attention and maintenance.
Imaging without boundaries: eliminating the bezel
So that the physician is able to review before and after images, the typical setup for a radiology review station is two monitors side-by-side. Vendors are now providing bigger, single displays that eliminate the requirement for two monitors as well as the bezel separating the two screens.
This enables better viewing, without the distraction of the bezel when going between the images. In this setup curved displays are also popular to wrap the physician in the image horizontally. It is extremely important to make sure that the monitors are calibrated.
Color vs. monochrome
Until recently, all diagnostic imaging was performed in black and white, with grayscale showing different densities within the study. Typically, color did not have the brightness required to supply a proper radiographic interpretation.
Generally, color needed more energy to generate brighter outputs, this would have a negative influence on the lamps and the system as a whole. Now, using OLED Technology (An organic light-emitting diode (OLED)) is a light-emitting diode (LED) in which the emissive electroluminescent layer is a film of organic compound that emits light in response to an electric current.
This layer of organic semiconductor is located between two electrodes; usually, at least one of these electrodes is transparent. The displays are not backlit at all, permitting color to be utilized more widely.
Black is true black and not a backlit black with OLED. This shows a bigger contrast when utilizing these displays for diagnosis. OLED Technology displays are generally thinner and lighter than traditional displays.
The utilization of color, specifically blue and red can now exhibit the flow of venous and arterial blood within an image to help with the diagnosis of vascular conditions such as stenosis or calcification of arteries.
This technology is now so advanced that these displays are able to exhibit flowing blood and track the velocities of the blood as it moves through the arteries and veins of the body.
The speed (clinically known as velocity) of the blood flow in the body can be affected by a narrowing of the artery, known as a stenosis and can even block blood flow completely (an occlusion).
Medical professionals are now able to visualize this in real time. These monitors can also show blood flow to tumors in concert with visualizing the size (shrinking or growing) of these tumors without subjecting a patient to exploratory surgery.
Consumer grade vs. medical grade
Typically, consumer-grade monitors did not have enough luminance, so they were not bright enough to show enough shades of gray for adequate diagnostic interpretation. Commercial grade monitors are getting close to being acceptable as the technology advances.
It would be difficult to find consumer grade monitors in a true medical diagnostic lab. However, consumer grade displays are utilized throughout hospitals and physicians offices but not for diagnostic purposes.
Usually, as outlined above, there is a designated diagnostic computer setup where the physicians interpret the medical images. Again a malpractice attorney would be interested to know that a consumer grade monitor was utilized instead of a medical grade DICOM monitor to perform an interpretation and/or diagnostic.
A medical grade diagnostic medical imaging monitor is a vital medical device and should not be treated as “just another monitor”, DICOM certification keeps the monitors working in a uniform manner.
Having the proper equipment is vital, as is having a designated “Command Center” for medical imaging review within a diagnostic center. OLED Technology has brought color to medical imaging and can aid in the interpretation and diagnosis of specific medical conditions.
Medical imaging is not only crucial to care but it is a big moneymaker for medical centers, down time on these command stations literally can cost the facility thousands of dollars.
Produced from materials originally authored by Gregg Abbate, key account manager at Advantech, from Amplify.
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