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          Picture Archiving and Communication Stytem (PACS): An alternative to traditional film-based medical image archiving.
           

          The Potential of PACS

          Picture archiving and communication system (PACS) technology offers healthcare providers the potential for long-term cost savings in radiology services. It also makes it much easier and faster for physicians, radiologists, and other specialists at multiple physical locations to collaborate than was possible with traditional film-based image retrieval, distribution, and display. Since electronic images and reports are transmitted digitally via PACS, this eliminates the need to manually file, retrieve, or transport film jackets and the related expenses.

           

          How PACS Work

          A PACS consists of four major components: the imaging modalities such as CT (computerized tomography), ultrasound, and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging); a secure network to transmit patient information; workstations to interpret and review images; and archives to store and retrieve images and reports. The DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) standard establishes a network communications protocol and defines the file format for transmission of medical images. The DICOM format and its many uses relative to PACS have revolutionized how all medical facilities create, use, and store medical images.

          Collaboration and Cost Savings

          PACS enable images acquired with any modality to be viewed by authorized personnel over a local area network, wide area network, virtual private network (VPN), and the Web. Healthcare professionals can consult with colleagues in real time. As they view digital medical images on a clinical workstation, providers can enhance the images using controls like pan, zoom, rotate, etc., and take precise measurements on screen. They can even print the images with a DICOM printer if they need a hard copy.

          Increasingly, PACS technology is Web-based, allowing users to distribute images and data via the Internet. For security, the architecture of a Web-based PACS typically uses a VPN or Secure Sockets Layer. Advantages of Web-based PACS can include ease of use, lower cost, and maintenance savings vs. systems that require proprietary networks.

          Focus on Interoperability

          The DICOM standard facilitates interoperability, which is key to reducing healthcare costs, enables equipment at different sites to communicate, and aids diagnoses and treatment decisions. It makes it much easier to bring images from multiple PACS technologies together in a single user interface.

          Along with DICOM, Vendor Neutral Archiving (VNA) strives to ensure interoperability among PACS solutions. VNA means that there are no limits on what a healthcare provider does with its electronically stored images and documents. It specifies that similar storage products and similar imaging applications of different manufacture should function with no noticeable differences.

          PACS for Practices

          In the past, digital imaging was too expensive for all but the largest hospitals. However, today more affordable PACS solutions are available, and even smaller providers can take advantage of the technology. PACS vendors even offer systems suited to specific specialties. It’s no longer out of reach for practices to tap the collaboration and productivity advantages of PACS.

          PACS can also assist smaller offices with HIPAA compliance. These systems have made archiving much easier and more efficient. Medical images can be digitally archived using a server and backed up in whatever way works best for a hospital, clinic, or practice. For example, a patient's x-rays or MRI results, saved in DICOM format, can be stored with his or her Electronic Health Record.

          PACS and the Cloud

          Vendor neutral storage offers maximum flexibility and allows for storage consolidation—a big benefit since healthcare providers are challenged by explosive growth in the size and volume of medical images, evolving regulations, lengthy retention requirements, and financial pressures.

          You can even optimize your system to send archives to off-site storage servers for back up and to support emergency disaster recovery. Cloud data storage offers scalability with reduced overhead and disaster recovery benefits; safeguards are in place to address special health IT security concerns.  

          Implement Modern Imaging Practices with Ease

          PC Connection can provide tools, expertise, and services, such as our Network Assessment, to ensure your PACS viewing stations are operating at peak performance.

          We will work with you to identify and implement solutions that capture images quickly, put critical information in the hands of clinicians when and where they need it, and improve operational efficiency and quality of care. Now is the time to modernize and improve your organization.

          For more information or to schedule an assessment today, complete this Information Request Form, or contact your account manager at 1-800-395-8685.

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