The digital imaging and communications in medicine (DICOM) 3.0 standard was first officially ratified by the national electrical manufacturers association in 1993. The success of the DICOM open standard cannot be overstated in its ability to enable an explosion of innovation in the best of breed picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) industry. At the heart of the success of allowing interoperability between disparate systems have been three fundamental DICOM operations: C-MOVE, C-FIND, and C-STORE. DICOM C-MOVE oversees the transfer of DICOM Objects between two systems using C-STORE. DICOM C-FIND negotiates the ability to discover DICOM objects on another node. This paper will discuss the efforts within the DICOM standard to adapt this core functionality to Internet standards. These newer DICOM standards look to address the next generation of PACS challenges including highly distributed mobile acquisition systems and viewing platforms.
Web technology; Wide area network (WAN); Systems integration; PACS integration; Image distribution; Integrating healthcare enterprise (IHE); Internet technology; Enterprise PACS; Digital imaging and communications in medicine (DICOM)
Online social networking is an immature, but rapidly evolving industry of web-based technologies that allow individuals to develop online relationships. News stories populate the headlines about various websites which can facilitate patient and doctor interaction. There remain questions about protecting patient confidentiality and defining etiquette in order to preserve the doctor/patient relationship and protect physicians. How much social networking-based communication or other forms of E-communication is effective? What are the potential benefits and pitfalls of this form of communication? Physicians are exploring how social networking might provide a forum for interacting with their patients, and advance collaborative patient care. Several organizations and institutions have set forth policies to address these questions and more. Though still in its infancy, this form of media has the power to revolutionize the way physicians interact with their patients and fellow health care workers. In the end, physicians must ask what value is added by engaging patients or other health care providers in a social networking format. Social networks may flourish in health care as a means of distributing information to patients or serve mainly as support groups among patients. Physicians must tread a narrow path to bring value to interactions in these networks while limiting their exposure to unwanted liability.
E-communication; Doctor patient relationship; Facebook; Sermo
Post-processing of volumetric data sets lands in a fuzzy boundary between the technologist and the radiologist. Is this the role of the technologist as part of image preparation? Or is it the beginning of the diagnostic process by the radiologist? Technology advances in real-time server side rendering platforms is challenging the traditional role of expensive dedicated advanced visualizations workstations with dedicated personnel. Will this also challenge the role of a dedicated 3D post-processing technologist?
3D reconstruction; Web technology; Volume rendering; Image visualization
Cloud computing has gathered significant attention from information technology (IT) vendors in providing massively scalable applications as well as highly managed remote services. What is cloud computing and how will it impact the medical IT market? Will the next generation of picture archiving and communication systems be leveraging cloud technology?
distributed computing; enterprise PACS; grid computing; information storage and retrieval; cloud computing
Many radiology information systems (RIS) cannot accept a final report from a dictation reporting system before the exam has been completed in the RIS by a technologist. A radiologist can still render a report in a reporting system once images are available, but the RIS and ancillary systems may not get the results because of the study’s uncompleted status. This delay in completing the study caused an alarming number of delayed reports and was undetected by conventional RIS reporting techniques. We developed a Web-based reporting tool to monitor uncompleted exams and automatically page section supervisors when a report was being delayed by its incomplete status in the RIS. Institutional Review Board exemption was obtained. At four imaging centers, a Python script was developed to poll the dictation system every 10 min for exams in five different modalities that were signed by the radiologist but could not be sent to the RIS. This script logged the exams into an existing Web-based tracking tool using PHP and a MySQL database. The script also text-paged the modality supervisor. The script logged the time at which the report was finally sent, and statistics were aggregated onto a separate Web-based reporting tool. Over a 1-year period, the average number of uncompleted exams per month and time to problem resolution decreased at every imaging center and in almost every imaging modality. Automated feedback provides a vital link in improving technologist performance and patient care without assigning a human resource to manage report queues.
Quality control; quality assurance; turnaround time; human error; communication
The Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) market has been transformed by disruptive innovations from the information technology industry. The cost of storage alone has dropped by a factor of 100 within the past 10 years. Improvements in display, processing, and networking have likewise enabled PACS to be a capable replacement for film. The maturity of PACS has permeated the US healthcare industry from large academic hospitals to small outpatient imaging centers. Can PACS continue to be a platform for innovation or has it become a commodity?
PACS; cost analysis; computer hardware
Lesion segmentation involves outlining the contour of an abnormality on an image to distinguish boundaries between normal and abnormal tissue and is essential to track malignant and benign disease in medical imaging for clinical, research, and treatment purposes. A laser optical mouse and a graphics tablet were used by radiologists to segment 12 simulated reference lesions per subject in two groups (one group comprised three lesion morphologies in two sizes, one for each input device for each device two sets of six, composed of three morphologies in two sizes each). Time for segmentation was recorded. Subjects completed an opinion survey following segmentation. Error in contour segmentation was calculated using root mean square error. Error in area of segmentation was calculated compared to the reference lesion. 11 radiologists segmented a total of 132 simulated lesions. Overall error in contour segmentation was less with the graphics tablet than with the mouse (P < 0.0001). Error in area of segmentation was not significantly different between the tablet and the mouse (P = 0.62). Time for segmentation was less with the tablet than the mouse (P = 0.011). All subjects preferred the graphics tablet for future segmentation (P = 0.011) and felt subjectively that the tablet was faster, easier, and more accurate (P = 0.0005). For purposes in which accuracy in contour of lesion segmentation is of the greater importance, the graphics tablet is superior to the mouse in accuracy with a small speed benefit. For purposes in which accuracy of area of lesion segmentation is of greater importance, the graphics tablet and mouse are equally accurate.
Image segmentation; user-computer interface; computer assisted detection; computer hardware; data collection; human computer interaction; evaluation research; segmentation
Information technology teams in health care are tasked with maintaining a variety of information systems with complex support requirements. In radiology, this includes picture archive and communication systems, radiology information systems, speech recognition systems, and other ancillary systems. Hospital information technology (IT) departments are required to provide 24 × 7 support for these mission-critical systems that directly support patient care in emergency and other critical care departments. The practical know-how to keep these systems operational and diagnose problems promptly is difficult to maintain around the clock. Specific details on infrequent failure modes or advanced troubleshooting strategies may reside with only a few senior staff members. Our goal was to reduce diagnosis and recovery times for issues with our mission-critical systems. We created a knowledge base for building and quickly disseminating technical expertise to our entire support staff. We used an open source, wiki-based, collaborative authoring system internally within our IT department to improve our ability to deliver a high level of service to our customers. In this paper, we describe our evaluation of the wiki and the ways in which we used it to organize our support knowledge. We found the wiki to be an effective tool for knowledge management and for improving our ability to provide mission-critical support for health care IT systems.
Wiki; PACS; knowledge management; informatics
Considerable debate within the medical community has focused on the optimal location of information technology (IT) support groups on the organizational chart. The challenge has been to marry local accountability and physician acceptance of IT with the benefits gained by the economies of scale achieved by centralized knowledge and system best practices. In the picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) industry, a slight shift has recently occurred toward centralized control. Radiology departments, however, have begun to realize that no physicians in any other discipline are as dependent on IT as radiologists are on their PACS. The potential strengths and weaknesses of centralized control of the PACS is the topic of discussion for this month’s Point/Counterpoint.
Hospital Information Systems (HIS); information management; PACS; PACS management; radiology department; hospital
This article defines and describes the numerous types of “clients” for picture archiving and communication systems (PACS). A radiologist uses a client to view images stored in the system. Many PACS are available in the market, and each offers different methods by which a client can view images from the server. The terminology used to describe these different methods can cause confusion and lead to poor choice for those imaging team members who are given the task of purchasing, implementing, and supporting the PACS. We propose a classification of clients with respect to their impact on client work stations, an effect often referred to as the application’s thickness. The thinner the client, the less effect it has on the hosting work station. In contrast, a thick client consumes the work station’s resources and often prevents a work station from being used to effectively run anything other than the client application. Functionality and supportability are highlighted as key and interacting metrics in determining optimal correct PACS solutions. The importance of a clear understanding of the needs and requirements of all users as well as the client application is emphasized. This relationship between supportability and functionality becomes increasingly important as the industry shifts to enterprise information technology solutions.
Enterprise clients; PACS; functionality; supportability; thin client; thick client
Rapid advances are changing the technology and applications of multidetector computed tomography (CT) scanners. The major increase in data associated with this new technology, however, breaks most commercial picture archiving and communication system (PACS) architectures by preventing them from delivering data in real time to radiologists and outside clinicians. We proposed a phased model for 3D workflow, installed a thin-slice archive and measured thin-slice data storage over a period of 5 months. A mean of 1,869 CT studies were stored per month, with an average of 643 images per study and a mean total volume of 588 GB/month. We also surveyed 48 radiologists to determine diagnostic use, impressions of thin-slice value, and requirements for retention times. The majority of radiologists thought thin slice was helpful for diagnosis and regularly used the application. Permanent storage of thin slice CT is likely to become best practice and a mission-critical pursuit for the health care enterprise.
Thin-slice CT; data storage; PACS; server-side rendering
The need for specialized individuals to manage picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) has been recognized with the creation of a new professional title: PACS administrator. This position requires skill sets that bridge the current domains of radiology technologists (RTs), information systems analysts, and radiology administrators. Health care organizations, however, have reported difficfiulty in defining the functions that a PACS administrator should perform—a challenge compounded when the tries to combine this complex set of capabilities into one individual. As part of a larger effort to define the PACS professional, we developed an extensive but not exclusive consensus list of business, technical, and behavioral competencies desirable in the dedicated PACS professional. Through an on-line survey, radiologists, RTs, information technology specialists, corporate information officers, and radiology administrators rated the importance of these competencies. The results of this survey are presented, and the implications for implementation in training and certification efforts are discussed.
PACS administrator; PACS; radiology management; information systems management