For Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS), the future looks very bright. Medical Imaging PACS is quickly becoming the standard for healthcare organizations across the country. In fact, thousands of healthcare enterprises have already upgraded to PACS technology – with more organizations joining the list every day.
Earlier this month, Imaging Economics sat down with Allan Noordvyk, director of radiology/product management for the McKesson Medical Imaging Group – along with Tim Kulbago of Merge Healthcare and Michael Green of Agfa HealthCare North America – to discuss the future for PACS.
Below are excerpts from the Imaging Economics interview with Noordvyk:
How have PACS systems changed over the last decade?
Noordvyk: PACS is considered a mission-critical component for patient care and service delivery; hospitals cannot afford for the system to be down. Hospitals are replacing the single use/departmental solutions that do not improve efficiencies or position them for future success (and health care dollars). Products and improvement must focus on workflow and productivity enhancements, not just adding a button or isolated feature. Real improvements help hospitals improve their operations, service delivery, patient care outcomes and operational goals.
There’s a sense of urgency in the market – hospitals that haven’t planned for the future may get left behind. Buying another scanner is not a solution for long-term success – investing in IT is. And image management is at the core.
PACS is now pretty standard in most large hospital settings. What about community hospitals and imaging centers? What’s the biggest barrier to adopting a PACS system these days?
Noordvyk: In reality, few facilities have not adopted PACS. [The issue is that] facilities are re-evaluating their PACS decision. Does their existing PACS position them for future success, government funds, etc? They’re looking for replacement solutions that deliver on the promise (and take them into the 21st century).
What are customers demanding these days regarding PACS? Are you seeing that radiologists are becoming savvier about digital imaging and technology in general?
Noordvyk: Radiologists and administrators are looking for solutions that enable them to acquire, distribute, and archive medical images and diagnostic reports across the enterprise. Integrating images from multiple modalities with clinical patient data, streamlining the department’s workflow, and contributing to improved radiologist efficiency.
Additionally, they need systems that provide referring physicians with patient images as part of a comprehensive medical record. The status quo is not a viable business plan – they’re looking for vendors that get them closer to their goals and objectives and deliver on expectations.
We hear a lot about thin-client, Web-based, and even zero-client PACS systems – what are the key benefits of each? Who needs what most?
Noordvyk: McKesson pioneered the concept of the zero-download PACS client with our eJacket interface for referring physicians. The two main benefits of zero-download are immediate access to patient information from a new device and cross-platform support. Both are of increasing importance as recent generation iPhones, Blackberries and other PDAs become commonplace in the hands of health care workers and thus mobile access to images on modest, non-Windows platforms is increasingly in demand.
If it’s done correctly, zero-download clients can also be zero-training clients. However, the technology currently available for zero-download clients remains insufficient for high-performance sophisticated image manipulation and the underlying required network and data management strategies. Thus, for radiologists classic downloadable Web clients are still required.
What are the latest trends? How is PACS continuing to enhance workflow and efficiencies for radiologists?
Noordvyk: Health care providers/radiology service providers are finding the limitations in the PACS they purchased years ago hinder their success now, have not lived up to the promises and their expectations, and are restricting their ability to plan for future success. Users are often still forced to use 19th-century workflow and technology but in an increasingly more complex and demanding 21st-century environment.
What you’ll be seeing from McKesson is optimizing workflow and productivity in the breast center. By minimizing the duplication of effort caused by disparate systems and removing redundant hardware, the potential for errors is reduced. The automation of tasks provides maximum efficiency for the radiologists and other clinical personnel while providing better, safer patient care.
Discover even more about PACS’ future by reading the full Imaging Economics article.