Q: What is PACS?
A: Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS), which are used to replace x-ray film with digital images, are a major boon to the practice of radiology. As any radiologist can attest, when images are not readily available to referring physicians, it is inevitable that decision-making with regard to patient care will be delayed. A robust PACS system can resolve the most critical problems associated with film, particularly the fact that film is only available in one place at a time.
Once equipped with a PACS system, individual medical facilities and networks of facilities within a medical enterprise can not only view images from various workstations within the network, they can also view images and the associated reports at the same time. However, not all PACS are created equal. Visualization, reporting, data management, scalability, and user interface customization must all be accounted for to create a balanced, user-friendly experience. Novarad’s NovaPACS accomplished just that.
Q: What does PACS consist of?
A: As a rule, each radiology PACS has four main parts:
- An imaging system or set of imaging systems, such as an x-ray machine or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) device, where the medical images are created
- An archival system, which stores the images, as well as associated documents
- The workstations and devices medical professionals use to access, view, and interpret the stored images
- A network that allows each patient’s information and images to be shared among those workstations
Often, in addition to a radiology PACS, a clinic or hospital will also deploy a radiology information system, or RIS. While the PACS is more geared toward image storage and sharing, the RIS will help the medical workers to schedule patients’ radiology appointments and record their medical history.
Q: Where did PACS come from?
A: When x-rays and x-ray technology were discovered by Wilhelm Rontgen in 1895, medical professionals realized that there was a lot of information to be gleaned from a look inside their patients’ bodies. Over time, the field of medical imaging grew, and new imaging techniques such as angiograms, ultrasounds, MRIs, and more were discovered and developed. Until the 1970’s, all of these images were produced on physical film, which the doctor then viewed before making a diagnosis. When digital imaging was developed in the 1960’s and 1970’s, though, everything changed.
Over time, medical diagnostic imaging has transitioned from having physical copies to being stored in a digital format, simplifying storage and access. As more and more diagnostic images were converted to digital, huge amounts of physical storage space were suddenly no longer necessary to keep patient images available for reference. Rather than keeping individual scans and images, it was now possible to keep digital storage media.
The next step forward in digital medical imaging came when these systems became widely available. Rather than medical professionals having to dig through boxes or shelves filled with digital media and pull it up on a workstation, PACS allowed them to simply pull up a patient’s images, both past and present, directly onto a workstation via the network. This not only made storage even more efficient, it simplified the task of comparing each patient’s current scans with previous images, allowing healthcare workers to track changes in the patient’s health more efficiently and accurately.
One concern to keep in mind in regards to PACS is its ability to communicate with the other electronic systems with which it will need to integrate. In an environment such as a hospital, there are often several different PACS systems, each focusing on a different department. Because these different systems often grow separately from each other, it’s not necessarily a given that they will be able to communicate. This significantly complicates the process of accessing and analyzing each patient’s health, as the information needs to be gathered from several different locations. In a situation like this, healthcare providers might decide to implement a vendor neutral archive (VNA), which essentially provides an archiving platform with which all of the other PACS systems can communicate, consolidating all of their data into a single, central location.
Q: What are the key benefits of NovaPACS?
As medical imaging expanded from film to the standard PACS, Novarad pioneered the technology and business model to expand the cost-saving benefits gained through switching from film to digital radiology storage to all facilities. As the industry transitions from using PACS as the main storage archive to the more centralized, vendor neutral storage archive, Novarad continues to focus on continually improving radiology workflows. As the market is shifting to value-based care, Novarad is committed to creating a PACS that enables radiology administrators and radiologists to work quickly and efficiently, leading to higher quality healthcare and healthier patients.
NovaPACS, when coupled with MARZ VNA, a leading vendor neutral archive solution, will help facilities to keep images and patient data grouped and sorted in a patient-centric manner. It then acts as a workflow module, retrieving and displaying archived studies in a robust PACS viewer while allowing clinicians across the continuum of care to access and display non-DICOM patient information in a patient-centric view. This allows clinicians to use several different criteria, such as date, patient date of birth, or patient name, in order to find the correct study.
As technological advances drive the healthcare industry forward, a diagnostic PACS system will remain at the forefront of the radiology workflow. Novarad is committed to developing technology that addresses the needs of both healthcare providers and administrators.