This month’s cover story, ” PACS: Get the Picture ,” is based on the results of the first-annual Medical Imaging PACS Usage Survey. As you’ll see, the results are quite interesting?including which factors led to a choice of PACS (only a small percentage of respondents’ facilities based theirs on price), how many vendors were evaluated by respondents’ facilities (one eighth evaluated more than seven vendors), and the amount of time that respondents’ facilities have had PACS installed (one for almost 15 years).
We are all aware of how vital PACS can be to a facility?workflow becomes more efficient, communication with referring physicians is easier, and the diagnosis process is much quicker. But let’s not forget facilities that don’t yet have a PACS.
To those facilities, I say: Get ready, because you will be transitioning to PACS sometime in the future. (In fact, 63% of our survey respondents said that their facilities will be purchasing and installing a PACS within the year.) I suggest a number of ways to prepare for PACS, beginning with an investment in education. This April 27?30 in Austin, Tex, is the annual meeting of the Society for Computer Applications in Radiology (SCAR of Great Falls, Va). The educational program offers a plethora of sessions for facilities making the transition, including “PACS Policies and Procedures” on April 28, “Section 4: Productivity & Workflow” on April 28, “SCAR University Section 10: Workstations” on April 29, and a host of others. Visit SCAR’s Educational Program online ( www.scarnet.net/2006program.htm ) to plan your course.
I also recommend that you re-evaluate your facility’s processes. Take a serious look at your current workflow in the film and/or partially digital environment, and detail every step. Then, ask yourself how you would like it to work, especially when you incorporate the powerhouse that is PACS. Remember, you will not simply reproduce your current workflow, step by step, when using a PACS. You will be able to eliminate many, many steps, but to accommodate the new system, you’ll also need to add a few. One of the best ways to predict if your workflow will do just that?work!?is via on-site visits to similar facilities that are using the PACS solutions your facility is considering. Talk with those users about their workflow changes, and learn from their mistakes and triumphs. Almost all of our survey respondents reported that their facilities took advantage of on-site visits and said they were invaluable in the decision-making process.
Finally, assuming it’s in your budget, get some help! Consider working with a PACS consultant. These folks have seen almost every kind of environment; and they know the vendors, they know the solutions, and they know how to facilitate the transition. Also, definitely think about hiring a PACS administrator for your facility. And do it sooner rather than later?that way, the person can be part of the entire process, including evaluating the systems, attending on-site visits, training, installation, and day-to-day maintenance. SCAR is offering a pre-conference course specifically for PACS administration, highlighting what is required of the job, what is required for the job, and the process of certification for the job. The “Imaging Informatics Administration Pre-Conference Symposium” takes place on April 26; visit www.scarnet.net/2006IIA.html for more information.
I’d love to hear about the status of PACS at your facility as well as how you and your colleagues are preparing for the transition. Please send me an e-mail or, if you’re attending SCAR, stop by Booth 126 to chat in person. I will share your stories with our vast audience, who can, in turn, learn from your successes and missteps.