Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) were traditionally meant for allowing radiologists to interpret images more efficiently. PACS has however been enhanced to a hospital integrated system which stores diagnostic imaging information beyond its basic function. In the last few decades, PACS technology has been expanded to include new tools such as Computer-Aided Diagnosis (CAD) and teleradiology. This development has been made possible due to the continued work of organizations in radiology departments to facilitate the patient information management.
The goals and limitations of the system
The new PACS is expected to lower operating costs, increase clinical efficiency and improve the quality of healthcare. Healthcare professionals however need to be aware that the current system is more of a radiology tool and does not offer scalability and flexibility. The current PACS does not integrate or incorporate with other information system and the current PACS may not deliver the expected quality images to facilitate treatment.
The future of PACS
Efforts to make enterprise imaging data accessible to anyone, anywhere and anytime is the reason why PACS is been popularized. Recent technological advances have improved the post-processing and improved viewing of DICOM images. Hospitals are gearing themselves towards integrating PACS and Radiology Information Systems (RIS) to facilitate structured reporting. Although the main function of PACS will still be imaging informatics, the new systems need new capabilities such as post-processing of multidimensional data and CAD applications. Dedicated plugins will be needed on radiology stations hosting PACS, to allow CAD to be performed on image datasets such as mammography and lung CT scans, which can then be accessed from the cloud using PACS network in DICOM format.
Modern PACS have the capability to read DICOM images both in 2D and 3D cross-sectional images. The use of these technologies in some hospitals have revolutionized the way MRI and CT scans are read, and this has improved radiologist's accuracy in diagnosis and enhanced communication between the specialists and radiologists. Most health care professionals and interventionists prefer 3D images since they are more effectively synthesized than 2D cross-sectional images. Other technologies to be integrated include;
Holographic PACS - to enhance speed and storage - holographic media is meant to overcome physical barriers. It enhances the capability of PACS through combination of increased storage transfer densities and faster rate of transfer to replace the traditional optical drive-based storage systems.
Virtual PACS and GRID technology - virtual PACS integrate multiple remote imaging data sources and present them to DCIOM as a unit virtual resource. GRID computing on the other hand, is a viable solution to facilitate flexible, secure, coordinated resource sharing among the dynamic collections. Applications associated with this technology include remote image processing, teleradiology services, and clinical data mining.
Benefit of PACS to health care professionals
- PACS is known to improve the timeliness of care and treatment since images are available to all members of the health care profession. The patient is diagnosed more efficiently and patient safety aspects are improved. This element is especially crucial in ER and ICU.
- Along with the availability of images and timely care, the PACS provides enhanced accuracy, increased efficiency and improved access to vital information.
- Since it contributes to increased efficiency and enhanced accuracy, radiologists are able to deliver quick results to health professionals to make treatment decisions.
- PACS technology plays a significant role in reducing errors made by healthcare professionals. This is because they can order and schedule exams for patients at the point of care.
The hopes for many radiology departments is that there will be a system that will support the clinician, patient and radiologist relationship. A newly improved PACS could be the answer. Hospitals want a PACS system that is integrated with other informations system in the hospital such as holographic and GRID technologies to eliminate issues associated with storage, data transfer and creation of virtual hospitals.