Soft-copy sonography: Cost reduction sensitivity analysis in a pediatric hospital

Steven Don, Michael J. Albertina, Dennis Ammann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. Our objective was to determine whether interpreting sonograms of pediatric patients using soft-copy (computer workstation) instead of laser-printed film could reduce costs for a pediatric radiology department. We used theoretic models of growth to analyze costs. MATERIALS AND METHODS. The costs of a sonographic picture archiving and communication system (three interface devices, two workstations, a network server, maintenance expenses, and storage media costs) were compared with the potential savings of eliminating film and increasing technologist efficiency or reducing the number of technologists. The model was based on historic trends and future capitation estimates that will reduce fee-for-service reimbursement. The effects of varying the study volume and reducing technologists' work hours were analyzed. RESULTS. By converting to soft-copy interpretation, we saved 6 min 32 sec per examination by eliminating film processing waiting time, thus reducing examination time from 30 min to 24 min. During an average day of 27 examinations, 176 min were saved. However, 33 min a day were spent retrieving prior studies from long-term storage; thus, 143 extra minutes a day were available for scanning. This improved efficiency could result in five more sonograms a day obtained by converting to soft-copy interpretation, using existing staff and equipment. Alternatively, five examinations a day would equate to one half of a full-time equivalent technologists position. Our analysis of costs considered that the hospital's anticipated growth of sonography and the depreciation of equipment during 5 years resulted in a savings of more than $606,000. Increasing the examinations by just 200 sonograms in the first year and no further growth resulted in a savings of more than $96,000. If the number of sonograms stayed constant, elimination of film printing alone resulted in a loss of approximately $157,000; reduction of one half of a full-time equivalent technologist's position would recuperate approximately $134,000 of that loss. CONCLUSION. Soft-copy sonography can save money through improved technologist efficiency, thereby increasing the number of sonograms obtained and revenue generated. If the number of sonograms does not increase, elimination of printing costs and reduction of staff technologists will not result in a savings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-575
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998


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