RSNA brought some discussion of phase contrast X-ray imaging. Phase contrast X-ray imaging is complicated and very different from a conventional X-ray. It provides better contrast in soft tissue than a standard X-ray. Lung imaging is one area that would benefit from phase contrast X-ray. Phase contrast is still being studied for clinical use, and it is expensive technology right now. But it is coming.
It is not the goal of this article to explain contrast X-ray in detail, but rather to discuss what the larger implications of this appearance at RSNA are regarding the Field Service Engineer (FSE). (If you are interested in the detail of phase contrast X-ray, a simple search on the Internet will give you a great deal of information.)
The rate of new technology development has increased dramatically in the last 10 years. With current models predicting a continued increase in the speed of development in all sectors, not just medical imaging. Currently, there are CT/Nuc Med cameras and CT/PET scanners that can combine body form and function in a single study. What are the next combinations of imaging and technology? There are already robots that can be used remotely, doctors accessing images from anywhere in the world on iPads and laptops.
It is already clear to anyone who has been in the medical imaging field for any amount of time that a significant part of being an effective FSE is to be a life-long student. This will only become more important. However, getting caught up in the advanced technology, while impressive, is built upon the foundation of the basics. The fundamentals of electronics, X-ray generation, nuclear medicine imaging, and magnetic resonance imaging will be more important than ever. Of those, electronics will be the most important.
The basics of electronics and electricity will be the basis of imaging for some time to come. Make no mistake, the software will be more and more integrated, as is made evident by modern imaging units. Even the computer driven systems require gantries full of hardware to function. Knowing how electrons flow can be the difference between a repair and a service call.
This need for a strong basis in the fundamentals becomes more critical as you see more and more training based on parts swapping in order of probability. A manufacturer considers that having an FSE trouble shoot to a particular level and then shipping three or four parts is more cost effective than actually troubleshooting to the specific part. This ties into logistics and how many more service calls that FSE can make, which equals revenue generation, versus the cost of shipping. This is usually not acceptable for an in-house FSE, or an Independent Service Organization (ISO).
The needs of the in-house and ISO FSE, require a sound understanding of the fundamentals of electronics and specific modalities. This is the same reason to consider training other than that of the manufacturer. Many ISOs provide system modality and system specific training that is more detailed than the manufacturer. It is also grounded in the fundamentals out of necessity. To provide quality service and help keep the cost of ownership at a minimum is the goal of the FSE. Those goals are rooted in the fundamentals.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://imagingigloo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Garrett_John-68575_60x60.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]John has twenty years experience in imaging service including general radiation, mammography, CT, and Nuclear Medicine. He has worked for third party service companies, manufacturers sales companies, and in house imaging teams. Currently John is the manager of clinical engineering at Catholic Health. John holds a B.S. in Health and Human Services Management from Wilberforce University.[/author_info] [/author]