Tuesday, 14 November 2006

The beginning - PACS the good.

I though I should start off with a brief look at why PACS is important to Radiology.
Radiology seems to have several limiting factors:
  1. Cost of Radiologists time
  2. Space available from hospital
  3. Film and Development costs
  4. Staff numbers
I believe that PACS will help address these issues in the following ways:
  1. Cost of Radiologists
    With PACS a lot of the mundane work currently placed on the Radiologist is removed. For instance there is no more hanging up the film, hand writing reports (if you still do this), constant interruptions from radiographers coming and going with film, manually looking up patient details in a patient information system, etc. These tasks may seem to be insignificant, but over a period of time they add up to a considerable waste to the most highly paid individuals in the process. These unnecessary tasks can be eliminated in a digital environment by making allowing instant access to imaging and patient information from one unified intuitive interface. This would have the net effect of making Radiologists more productive and theoretically allow a Radiology department to have less Radiologists, or to increase the capacity of the current Radiologists.
  2. Space available in Hospital
    This one is debatable, but with digital equipment your throughput on a machine is supposed to be increased dramatically. A DR system is supposed do the work of up to 3 analog rooms. This can allow considerable space savings. However on the flip side with PACS you will probably need a dedicated server room to house your PACS servers, so this might be more of a one for one pay off.
  3. Film development costs
    The cost of film development is almost eliminated by implementing PACS as you now only distribute images in digital format. This however is once again a payoff as the cost of implementing a DR system and or CR system will ultimately eliminate any savings.
  4. Staff numbers
    The staffing aspect of implementing a PACS system is often one that is very sensitive. I am a firm believer that the dark room staff in an institution will not be eliminated when PACS is introduced. I believe that these staff members can be put to use operating the CR systems and other administrative tasks. However implementing PACS should allow you to reduce staff in future.
There are many other benefits to PACS that I will try an summarize below:
  • Ability to distribute images and reports instantly to external doctors, hospital wards, ER and other doctors.
  • Allows for sharing workload of Radiologists by having a single centralized work list.
  • Minimize resets by allowing software manipulation of images. (i.e. Contrast, Brightness, software shutters, etc.)
  • Instant access to past studies.
  • Speech recognition technology.
  • Enhanced security.
  • Digitization of most paper documentation. (i.e. referral note)
My next post will take a look at some of the darker side of PACS and I hope to investigate some of the bad and ugly when it comes to PACS.