Digital radiography is a form of X-ray imaging, where digital X-ray sensors are used instead of traditional photographic film. Instead of X-ray film, digital radiography use a digital image capture device for better image quality and immediate image availability.
Mobile DR is a movable compact machine for digital radiography. With high motility, it stands out among various radioactive medical imaging equipment, gaining increasing attention of doctors and patients in recent years.
However, the advantage of mobile DR is limited in Chinese hospital because we are under great medical pressure due to the large population. For many Chinese hospitals, they even have to place bed in corridors for patients, and according to my research, the narrowest corridor occupied by sick beds is only 1.2m wide, making it really difficult for mobile DR to go through. Those situations lead to an urgent need of more efficient and more flexible medical equipment.
The creativity of EDR is to divide the bulb tube which generate X-ray into two parts. One part is included in the portable handheld equipment, which can be used for low accuracy detection, allows doctors to go around easily in crowded Chinese hospitals with it. The other part of bulb tube is included in the main body, when the handheld is connected with it, it can be used for meticulous examination. Ultrasonic sensor is equipped on the robot arm in order to detect the position of DR board and complete the task of range finding, alignment and obstacle avoidance automatically, highly improving the efficiency of testing procedure.
The medical imaging has been more and more important and powerful in recent years. In collaboration with the biggest medical equipment company, United Imaging and Shanghai Center Hospital we were asked to develop a future product solution that would help improve the experience of using that technology for Chinese special medical situation. And my focus on this project was to improve the existing mobile digital radiography system and make it fit Chinese situation.
The project started with a study trip to the company, United Imaging, During our stay there, I was given a general introduction of the existing technology and method of medical imaging, and also tried all the equipment myself to test the using experience. I also had a quite pleasant talk with the chief designer of the company and got the knowledge that medical equipment design is really important to provide a better user experience for both operators and patients.
Then I went to Shanghai Center Hospital and some other hospitals for more using research to find the design opportunities. This invaluable experience allowed us to really understand the real hospital environment in china, and I find some of the equipment can not fit well. Those situations lead to an urgent need of designing for Chinese special situation.
China is really different from other western countries due to the large population and the people are under great medical pressure because of that. According to my online research and interview with some doctors and nurses, for many Chinese hospitals, the workload reaches a peak of 173%, which is far beyond their capacity. And during my research in the hospital, I can easily see that the operators and doctors were so busy and can hardly take care of all the patients. A lot of patients had to come to the hospital in the early morning to queue for treatment. For both patients and operators were suffering a lot in that environment, whichleads to an urgent need of more efficient and user friendly medical equipment.
1.2m Narrow Corridor
Many hospitals place beds in corridors for patients due to high population pressure. According to my survey, the narrowest corridor occupied by sickbeds is only 1.2m, making it difficult for medical equipment to go through. The doctors told me that it is a common phenomenon in Chinese hospital, and sometimes that cause quite serious problem.
Difference Between Testing Accuracy
There are two kinds of test using digital radiography, first one is accurate testing, such as visceral and brain detection requires fixing or moving DR for high-power and accuracy detection in order to assure the quality and clarity of the picture and the accuracy of final testing. However, the second one such as preliminary test and fracture test, however, require positioning detection but not really accurate photos, a qualified dental image meets the needs of required picture accuracy. But all the two kinds of testing are using high-power digital radiography now.
Operating Work Flow Of Mobile Digital Radiography
I had a close-up observation of the whole work flow of operating mobile DR in the hospital, the whole process needs a lot of manual work which causes fatigue for the operators after several times. And manual work can cause inaccuracy as well. The whole process is as follows:
-Moving: It takes time for equipment to be moved from storage room to ward due to various obstacles such as elevator.
-Placing DR board: DR board is used for capturing the image and can be placed according to different shooting demand. Disabled patients need extra help when placing DR board.
-Positioning detector: Pointing the detector at the center of patients is time-consuming and less accurate in manual positioning.
-Measuring: The shooting distance and lighting intensity vary according to different afflicted part and testing requirements. Current measurement and placement are done by ruler and experience.
-Exposure adjustment: Use knobs on the probe to adjust raster in order to decide the exposure range and intensity.
-Remote exposure: Operators stand outside of the ward and control exposure remotely with wired or wireless controller.
The whole process cost around 15-20mins, which is not efficient for a simple photo, so it is also a opportunity to enhance the efficiency of the work flow.
The bulb tube which generate X-ray is designed to be divided into two parts. One part is included in the portable handheld equipment, which can be used for low accuracy detection, allows doctors to go around easily in crowded Chinese hospitals with it. The other part of bulb tube is included in the main body, when the handheld is connected with it, it can be used for meticulous examination. With the same power bulb tube, the new design increases both mobility and efficiency of the equipment, which is more in line with the crowded Chinese hospitals.
Less Manual Work And More Efficiency
When it comes to the main body of the machine, more works will be done automatically thanks to the technologies we have nowadays. There will be three wireless signal emitting source inside DR board form a plane so that the probe can make sure the position of DR board, the central point and the shooting distance. In the mean while the signal receiving source inside the probe receives signal from DR board and move to appropriate height above it. At the same time, the probe can avoid obstacles and plan moving route by calculating with surrounding infrared sensor. The technology has been widely used in different areas such as drones and cars. The drone can plan moving route and avoid obstacles by itself, and many cars can park itself. So the EDR can benefit a lot by using automatic positioning technology.
The existing structures of Mobile DR are quite old style and have a lot of limit such as not enough flexibility and too complex to fold. So I also worked on developing a more compact and flexible structure as well.
-Friendly form language: The sculpt of the new design breaks through the cold feeling of traditional medical equipment by adding the design of consumer electronics and using professional black skin-friendly plastic, offering patients much affinity and less panic.
-Easy to move: When the whole equipment works as a moving DR, the fuselage moves around the ward by electric power and what operators have to do is controlling the direction.
-Portable detector: The portable device is free to move in crowded environment. The two buttons on it need to be pressed at the same time for exposure, effectively reducing the damage on patients caused by exposure due to misoperation. The silicone handles at the back fit the palm, providing a more ergonomic using experience.
-Portable DR board: The machine itself is equipped with carbon fiber DR board, which can be stored in the machine and charged wirelessly. The two handles allow the placement on both sides of the ward.
-Ergonomic remote controller: There is a wireless remote controller equipped in the main device. It can be used to start exposure and also control the robot arm to move slowly and slightly which offers more accuracy for exposure. The shape was well designed for ergonomic by testing with lots of foam mock-ups.