What does a PACS plug-in mean for VNAs?

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A handful of radiology departments still think of picture archiving communications systems (PACS) as standalone silos, focusing only on traditional or singular specialties such as general radiology, nuclear medicine, mammography, etc. But as the industry shifts to an increasingly electronic environment, more practices understand the critical need the critical need to share, store, archive and access images through an enterprise-wide imaging strategy.

With this in mind, radiologists can leverage a vendor-neutral archive (VNA) to give them access to imaging data across specialties. This not only gives providers access to a more longitudinal record for a fuller patient picture, but it also leads to such benefits as reductions in redundant testing, lower patient exposure to radiation and enhanced collaboration for improved clinical decision-making.
A more electronically-driven environment also means that complex imaging modalities – like cardiology, mammography, PET-CT, PET-MR and others – can and should be included in a PACS implementation. Through the use of a PACS plug-in, this can more easily be done. Indeed, the right PACS plug-in supplies several key advantages while incorporating these specialties into an organization’s VNA and bigger imaging enterprise, including:
  • Eliminating or dramatically reducing the need for a separate PACS cache. Ideally, the PACS can pull images directly to the viewing client from the VNA. This also eliminates the need for prefetching and its inherent limitations;
  • Enabling a provider’s PACS to take advantage of all VNA features; and
  • Simplifying quality control (QC) operations by providing a single point for QC efforts (although this does require a QC propagation interface to the VNA).

To realize these benefits, however, a PACS plug-in must satisfy these key requirements:
  1. It must be able to share the VNA with multiple third-party PACS.
  2. It must be able to store the original images and reports as well as items created in PACS – such as key images, annotations and other presentation state objects in the VNA – in DICOM standard format that makes them equally accessible to all other PACS using the VNA. This will also avoid the need to migrate proprietary data out of the PACS when it needs to be “unplugged” and replaced at a future date.
  3. It must also be able to properly display the reports, key images, annotations and presentation states created by other PACS systems.
  4. It must be able to propagate all QC changes and demographic edits to the VNA so that the VNA is always automatically in sync when the inevitable imaging study corrections and deletions are made in PACS.
Whether that VNA is shared with other PACS, departmental mini PACS, enterprise/universal viewers, or whether the plug-in is eventually replaced by a different PACS from the same or a different vendor, all of these must be sharable entities.
In today’s electronically-driven imaging environments, no imaging modality should be left out in the cold when it comes to maximizing VNAs and imaging interoperability. A PACS plug-in makes it possible.
Are you leveraging a PACS plug-in to drive your imaging strategy? 

Originally posted on: 3/24/2014 8:43:10 AM

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