Q&A: Authors of Acclaimed PACS Book Discuss Radiology PACS Advancements


Advanced medical imaging systems are changing the way hospitals and radiology clinics operate and provide care. The Medical Imaging Talk Blog spoke with the authors of Digital Radiography and PACS, Christi E. Carter and Beth L. Veale, to better understand the affects of radiology Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) on radiologists, physicians, patients and even medical students. Discover best practice advice for implementing a PACS, how today’s medical students are learning about medical imaging and what the future may hold.

Beth, as an associate professor in radiologic sciences at Midwestern State University, do you think PACS is being incorporated into medical school curricula?
Most programs include PACS in their discussion of digital radiography. If the program teaches their own computer course, I have found they will place the PACS information in that course. Upon graduating, medical students need to understand the purpose of PACS, what their responsibilities will be regarding the storage of medical images and the repercussions of incomplete information entries. 

What aspects of medical imaging most interest your students?
At the beginning of their education, they like hearing about real-life situations, things that connect the more technical aspects with human aspects. They love to create images. Once they continue to clinical practice, they tend to drift towards certain areas like CT, MR or emergency room procedures.

In researching for your book, what did you find to be the greatest radiology PACS achievements over the past few years? What will be the next greatest advancement?
The biggest achievement seen in PACS has been the full integration of Health Information System (HIS)/Radiology Information System (RIS)/Voice Recognition Dictation.

The next greatest advancement will be the use of images more portably. Perhaps the use of handheld devices at the bedside will be used by a larger audience once the resolution of those devices can properly handle medical images.

When moving from a film-based system to a radiology PACS, how can hospitals ensure their staff has the proper training?
The department administration must first understand the impact the system will have on their department. They must take the time to learn the system just as much as the PACS administrator. They may not be day-to-day hands-on with the system, but they must have a thorough understanding.

The most important thing a PACS administrator can do is train several super users for the system. These folks will be the front line defense when issues arise in the department or outside the department for general users (OR, ER, ICU, floors, etc.). I am a firm believer that the PACS is only as good as its users. If they are properly trained, the system will meet their needs. 

What advice would you give to healthcare organizations about to begin a radiology PACS implementation?
Veale: Planning, planning and more planning. There are so many details concerning implementation that, if ignored, will cause many issues later. Do the research and make sure the project is well laid out and that enough people are informed and involved so that the process goes smoother. 

For organizations not considering a radiology PACS, what advice would you give?
Veale: The time for physical storage and slow retrieval of images is past. Healthcare organizations will find in the near future that if they cannot provide information as quickly as other providers, they will lose business.

What thoughts do you have on the future of radiology PACS?
Carter: As long as computer equipment and networks continue to advance, PACS will continue to move forward also. Many early adopters of PACS have seen the life cycle of their systems come to an end. Many have moved on to different vendors offering newer technology. The PACS vendors must keep up with the upwardly mobile IT industry or they risk losing their long-time customers.

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