RSNA 2017 part 1: Explore alternatives to the PACS-only imaging model

Explore. Invent. Transform. This is the theme for the RSNA (Radiological Society of North America) 2017 Annual Meeting taking place this week (November 26 – December 1) at McCormick Place in Chicago. With it, the organization is challenging radiologists and other imaging professionals to investigate and advance the field through innovation — all in an effort to positively impact patient care.

This blog series will examine how Health IT — and specifically an enterprise imaging strategy — can help you satisfy each of the “Explore, Invent and Transform” objectives outlined in the theme for RSNA 2017.

Let’s begin with Explore.

PACS: Departmental, DICOM only, expensive

When it comes to medical image management, the radiology industry has long been dominated by PACS and PACS alone. PACS technology is more than 20-years old, and quite simply, fails to meet many of today’s imaging objectives.

For example, PACS was purpose-built to be a departmental solution. Most PACS are proprietary in nature and aren’t designed to provide connectivity and information sharing across departments or to interoperate with other systems. Furthermore, PACS is based on the DICOM standard and doesn’t easily handle the non-DICOM images and video (e.g. JPEG, TIFF, MPEG, etc.) that are common in other imaging-intensive departments throughout a health system — such as gastroenterology, dermatology, ophthalmology, surgery and more.

Finally, maintaining a PACS infrastructure is expensive. The technology is known for driving high-cost data and image migrations. As PACS become outdated and need to be replaced or when a new PACS is added, data migration — the process of extracting, translating and loading data from one source (legacy archive) to another source (destination archive) — is necessary.

This is a time-consuming process that can be very costly from both a capital expense and resource standpoint. In fact, the average cost of a typical PACS conversion and migration is estimated at $2.84 million. This cost is compounded when you consider that most radiology departments update or replace their PACS every five years or so.

Despite advancements in PACS over the years, it is still shackled by these core drawbacks. To truly move imaging forward, we can’t continue to rely solely on this stagnant technology. The time has come to explore other imaging solutions and approaches beyond PACS. That doesn’t mean PACS shouldn’t still play an important role in your imaging infrastructure, but its role needs to change. PACS can no longer be the end-all-be-all imaging system within a healthcare facility. Instead, it should simply play a part in a broader enterprise imaging strategy.

Imaging: Across the enterprise

The HIMSS-SIIM member workgroup defines “enterprise imaging” as a set of strategies, initiatives and workflows implemented across a healthcare enterprise to consistently and optimally capture, index, manage, store, distribute, view, exchange and analyze all clinical imaging and multimedia content to enhance the electronic health record. An ideal enterprise imaging infrastructure will typically include a combination of PACS, vendor neutral archive (VNA), enterprise viewing and image acquisition/connectivity technologies.

Enterprise imaging is all about creating an environment where the management of all patient images throughout a healthcare enterprise can be consolidated and easily shared with and accessed by key stakeholders in the clinical process — whether they reside within or outside the four walls of your healthcare facility. This requires the use of open technology that is geared toward interoperability — qualities not commonly associated with PACS.

Luckily, there are a wide variety of enterprise imaging offerings on display at the RSNA 2017. Hyland Healthcare (Booth #1316) is just one of many vendors showcasing its enterprise imaging solutions at the Exhibit Hall. I invite you to explore alternatives to a PACS-only imaging environment and learn more about how technologies such as a VNA, enterprise viewer and more can complement your PACS and augment your overall medical imaging infrastructure.

For more information on the drawbacks of a PACS-only approach to imaging and best practices for transitioning to an enterprise imaging model, I also encourage you to download the following white papers:

Ken Congdon

Ken Congdon

Ken Congdon is a content marketing manager at Hyland. His mission is to develop engaging content that educates healthcare providers and payers about potential solutions to their most pressing content management challenges. By helping healthcare organizations identify and address information management weaknesses, waste can be minimized, workflow streamlined and overall patient care improved. Ken joined Hyland after a two-year stint as content marketing manager at Lexmark Healthcare. Prior to that, Ken spent 12 years as a healthcare technology journalist, most notably as Editor In Chief of Health IT Outcomes. Ken received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Duquesne University.

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