From glass plates to the cloud: Celebrating International Day of Radiology 2014

Much has happened in the evolution of medical imaging technology over the last 100+ years. In honor of International Day of Radiology (IDoR), here’s a look at the history of medical imaging and how advances in technology have radically improved patient care.

historic-medical-imaging-technologyMuch has happened in the evolution of medical imaging technology. On November 8, 119 years ago, a German professor discovered the X-ray. The first 50 years of radiology exams involved a patient holding a cassette for up to 11 minutes while a radiologist aimed the X-rays at the body. Now, this process takes milliseconds and has higher quality and lower radiation doses. In honor of International Day of Radiology (IDoR), let’s look at the history of medical imaging and


1895 | Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen accidentally discovered X-rays in how advances in technology have radically improved patient care. 1895 while he was experimenting with electric currents. He noticed a fluorescent screen glowing at a nearby table as the current passed through his tube, but stopped glowing as he turned the current off. He could not explain the glowing rays, which ultimately lead to him calling them “X” rays.


A month later, Röntgen noticed that the rays could pass through human tissue, but not bone or metal objects.  He had his wife place her hand on a photographic glass plate while he aimed X-rays at it, and the result clearly shows Bertha’s skeleton and her ring.

1918 | George Eastman, founder of Kodak, introduced radiographic film. This advancement largely replaced the prior process of making radiographs onto glass photographic plates. For many years, patients’ films were put onto illuminated walls to guide surgeons in their work and help battlefield physicians locate bullets in wounded soldiers. x-ray-darkroom-history-of-medicine

1972 | Godfrey Hounsfield invented the computerized tomography (CT) scan, made possible by the digital computer. This tool is still used today to quickly examine people who may have internal injuries from car accidents or other types of trauma. With a CT scan, you can visualize nearly every part of the body.

godfrey-hounsfield-computerized-tomography-scan1983 | When I was a sophomore in high school, Fuji Photo Film Company introduced the first computed radiography (CR) system, which converted light given off by laser stimulation into a digital image through computer technology. However, for many years, digital images were still printed on film and reviewed and exchanged in an analog fashion.

1993 | The first publication of DICOM replaced X-ray film with a fully digital workflow and established the standard exchange medium: CDs.


2000 | More than 90% of hospitals adopted the standard for storing patient images on CDs and it became a mainstream practice for these to be shipped or carried between providers so they could see prior exams. However, hospitals found that about 20% of CDs were unreadable, corrupt, lost or broken, causing patients to be rescanned, delaying patient treatment and costing providers unnecessary time and money.

2014 | According to a HIMSS Analytics survey, 83% of healthcare IT executives now use some sort of cloud services, prompting thousands of providers to eliminate CDs and share medial images via the cloud.  On August 25th, the Nuance PowerShare Network had been used to share 3 billion medical images via the cloud – an industry first.

One hundred years ago, patients would have to stand or sit still for more than ten minutes, and physicians would wait hours for images to be processed. Today, scans happen in the blink of an eye. Further, the emergence of cloud-based image exchanges provide physicians real-time access to patient medical images anywhere and on any device without delays, extra hardware and the hassles associated with CD storage. Patients now benefit from faster throughput of care, decreased radiation exposure and stronger care coordination. From all of us at Nuance – Happy IDoR 2014!

Join me at the RSNA Annual Meeting 11/30 – 12/5 in booth #2529 to see Nuance’s latest innovations for the diagnostic industry.


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About Rodney Hawkins

This was a contributed post by Rodney Hawkins. To see more content like this, visit the Healthcare section of our blog.