Is Your PACS Environment Neutral Enough?


Vendor Neutral Archive Environment Supports Image Access for PhysiciansEver been working down your inbox and you lose your Wi-Fi connection? Sure, you can still draft emails, but you may lose the ability to send and receive new emails. This is similar to a PACS environment that is not taking advantage of the capabilities in neutral solutions. If the PACS is your laptop, the neutral environment is your laptop with a Wi-Fi connection.

As healthcare leaders consider investing in technology that supports improvements to patient care, it’s important to know how a vendor neutral solution can enhance your PACS and diagnostic imaging department. There are crucial elements to consider; what are the benefits a of a vendor neutral environment and why a traditional PACS isn’t good enough in today’s changing healthcare arena.

Storing and Sharing

First, let’s look at two crucial aspects of today’s diagnostic imaging departments:

  • Storing medical images from multiple modalities in one system so they can be diagnosed by radiologists and other imaging specialists.
  • Sharing of information so that referring specialists can access patient images and share data between disparate healthcare systems (i.e., support image-enablement of a health system’s EHR).

“The true distinction between PACS and VNA is the VNA’s ability to effectively facilitate the exchange of data between disparate PACS, guaranteeing that the image captured in one PACS will display properly and hang properly in another PACS,” says Michael Gray, a consultant who specializes in the digital management and distribution of medical image data. “This is something that most PACS simply cannot do, and it’s a big deal if the healthcare organization owns multiple PACS from different vendors.”

As healthcare organizations consolidate in order to streamline operations and reduce costs, determining how to share images between multiple PACS is vital. Migrating medical images to a vendor neutral archive is a one-time task, with VNAs working independently of vendors.

Helping Improve Access, Efficiency and Care

There are a number of key benefits to a vendor neutral environment. A vendor neutral environment helps improve access to patient medical images. In turn, this allows radiologists and other medical imaging professionals to work more efficiently.

“The newest generation of PACS, or PACS 3.0, is comprised of best of breed components including server-side rendering display technology, enterprise workflow/worklist, and a vendor neutral archive,” says Gray. “This dramatically improves the performance of the system, and all of the features and functions inherent in this technology mix dramatically improve the efficiency of the reading physician as well as every caregiver that needs access to the images in the course of patient care.”

Clinicians who are able to view patient images and related data have a clearer view of a patient’s health and prior care. This allows them to make better informed decisions when caring for patients.

Image Enabling the EHR

Healthcare leaders whose organizations still use a traditional PACS are likely hearing about its limitations, including its inability to share image and slow load times. Meanwhile, leaders must determine what technology to invest in that will help their organization succeed in today’s changing healthcare landscape. From value-based care to increasing regulations, there are a number of factors affecting healthcare organizations of all sizes and a variety of solutions to weigh.

“In today’s environment of healthcare consolidation and the switch from volume-based to value-based reimbursement, the VNA can improve physician efficiency by enabling image interpretation on any one of the disparate PACS in the enterprise,” says Gray. “The VNA can move the study to whichever location the physician assigned to interpreting the study happens to be seated,” says Gray. “The VNA guarantees that the destination PACS will recognize and properly hang the images as though they were acquired by that PACS. Image routing and recognition can significantly improve physician efficiency, thus turnaround time, treatment planning, and patient outcome.”

A vendor neutral environment also helps healthcare organization efforts to image enable the EHR, which is a goal for many health systems today.

“The VNA is also the foundation of the enterprise image strategy that will allow the organization to continue the consolidation of software components used across the enterprise to acquire medical images, create physician worklists, interpret those images, and make them available to the EMR user,” adds Gray.

Like your laptop when the Wi-Fi connection is lost, a traditional PACS is incapable of sharing information. A neutral environment, on the other hand, supports sharing images across a health system and supports an enterprise-wide focus that fits with today’s changing healthcare environment.

See how McKesson measures up against other vendor neutral solutions in this free comparison chart at Imaging Technology News.

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