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Health organizations around the globe continue to adopt PACS as a way of sharing medical images to facilitate diagnosis within clinical environments. But what does PACS mean in radiology?

 

Picture archiving and communication system PACS is a medical imaging technology used to store and transmit electronic images and relevant clinical reports securely. The conventional radiological film is replaced through the PACS radiology system, resulting in a filmless clinical environment.

 

Challenges and Benefits of PACS in Radiology Practice

 

PACS is medical imaging software that has many benefits, the most significant one being improved efficiency in handling patient data. Hospitals, clinics, and other health organizations can now safely store medical documents and images in offsite servers that can be safely accessed from anywhere in the world using their mobile devices and PACS workstations. Besides being predominantly used in radiology departments, PACS has been incorporated in cardiology, oncology, pathology, dermatology, and nuclear medicine imaging departments.

 

 

The Use of PACS in Radiology

PACS is used in radiology with a radiology information system– which is a system used to schedule patient appointments and record patient radiology histories. When this system is integrated with or alongside the radiology PACS system, it efficiently aids in the storage and retrieval of these patient images.

 

Images produced by X-Ray machines, computed tomography equipment (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound machines are stored, retrieved, shared, and presented by PACS in radiology. PACS Architecture and the Major Components of PACS.

 

PACS consists of four components: The imaging component, which does the actual scanning of the patient to produce a medical image, and a secure network portal to the database used to upload and transfer images. The other components are a workstation that allows doctors and radiologists to view the images to facilitate diagnosis and an archives component for storage. The archives storage component is secure; only authorized personnel can access it.

 

 

Providers use a hybrid cloud system–where primary images are stored onsite in the system, and backups are stored in the cloud. Other storage architectures such as direct-attached storage and network-attached storage are configured and connected to the PACS server. These architectures allow for improved upgradeability and storage security of patient data.

 

The advent of software as a service (SaaS), which has seen many tech companies that sell cloud space evolve, has revolutionized the adoption of PACS in radiological departments in a significant way. Today health providers can share patient data by sharing links between different organizations. Patient data and image storage can also be backed up and upscaled when required since storage and sharing have been advanced with this enhancement in technology.

 

The Benefits of PACS in Radiology

Lets have a look at the pacs advantages in radiology:

  • It helps better organize patient data in a systemized way, as opposed to going through a pile of patient images manually.
  • Electronic manipulation of images: through advanced tools enables enhanced visualization of images—for example, the rotation and enhancement of images to create 3D visualization of body tissues. The 3D visualization of body tissues promotes better analysis and interpretation of data.
  • PACS allows for remote access of patient data: enabling clinicians to share the same data in different clinical locations simultaneously. Timely sharing of patient data has improved patient diagnosis, faster patient history analysis, and a timely onset of treatment.
  • Efficient Workflow Management: The use of PACS has also allowed radiologists to efficiently manage the workflow of their patient exams, reducing the time taken for patient results to be released.
  • Medical Image Interface: PACS has offered a platform for medical image interfacing with other automated systems such as the radiology interface system and hospital information system for enhanced efficiency within the medical organizations. Less need for retaking images has ensured that patients have less radiation exposure.
  • Reduced Costs: Lastly, the use of PACS has reduced the cost of medical imaging to patients since the printing of medical images isn’t necessary. The cloud-based system utilized by PACS has made it is for medics to see the digital images and reports on digital devices such as phones and computers.

 

 

Key Issues with Today’s PACS in Radiology

Some of the critical issues in PACS today include system integration issues, cost, access issues, data migration issues, and difficulty in transmitting images. However, most of these issues are technical in nature.

 

System Integration Issues

In late 2018, users decried that some PACS from different vendors were difficult to integrate with one another–especially with the CD and DVD root directory. However, PACS manufacturers have adopted the use of links to share data on PACS.

 

Data Migration Issues

Like all other data migration problems, organizations that use PACS stand a chance of data leaks and loss during cloud data migration to different platforms. Migrating cloud data also requires deploying knowledgeable software engineers, which means additional costs to the organizations.

 

Many companies provide software as service solutions for data storage at a cost. An increase of additional patient data for storage means an increase in storage costs for the said institutions.

 

Technological Challenges

Health care providers have difficulty navigating the PACS system on their devices, for example, changing IP, AET, hostname, and DICOM attributes. PACS manufacturers who provide a friendlier user interface on their apps have the advantage of more customers embracing their PACS product.

 

 

Internet access in some regions of the globe is still a challenge; therefore, many patients in these parts of the world or mobile patients still find it hard to access this service effectively.

 

Data Security

Open source PACS users have expressed concern over data security and problems with workflow. Therefore, PACS security should be improved by employing multifactor authentication, which some PACS-vendors have already implemented today.

 

Data security concern is a broad concern that has been noted with the advancement in technology and is not confined to PACS. Systemization of applications and the use of open-source platforms expose patient data to the risk of being hacked or stolen and landing in the wrong hands. Governing bodies should legislate to encourage ethical software, internet use, and system fortification.

 

 

Many health providers have embraced the use of PACS today to improve, hasten and globalize patient disease investigation, diagnosis, and treatment. PACS vendors have also upped their game by tweaking their softwares and apps to effectively integrate to serve its intended purpose of linking health organizations. Service providers that help in radiology pacs software integration have also made it easier for health providers to connect their PACS flawlessly. The advent of cloud-based data storage services has improved patient data storage and sharing service provision.

 

PACS Data loss that occurred in the past due to natural calamities and hardware theft is today unheard of since cloud data is easily downloaded and shared to any device when needed. The critical issue in PACS like access issues, data migration issues, and difficulty in transmitting images can be addressed by practical training of the health care providers who handle this system. In addition to radiologists, other health care providers such as cardiologists, physicians, oncologists, and hospital administration staff need to know the benefits of USING PACS. Training these healthcare providers professionals on effectively using PACS is of utmost importance for faster and easier adoption of this technology.