Distributed, Deconstructed, or Reconstructed: What You Need to Know about Today’s PACS
Enterprise's requirements for image management solutions are becoming more sophisticated and changing how providers view their Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS). Not that long ago PACS couldn’t do much more than ingest imaging studies and serve them up for radiologists to read, annotate, create key images and then archive—almost always to their own internal archiving systems.
Times have changed, organizational structures have evolved, and the right PACS solution could either be a reconstructed PACS or a distributed/deconstructed PACS environment.
Distributed imaging, sometimes referred to as deconstructed PACS, started to emerge about 15 years ago when Merge introduced the Emageon VNA, but has only recently gained traction, thanks to growth in healthcare mergers and partnerships, as well as accountable care. Distributed imaging takes the traditionally single PACS system and breaks it down into its components—a viewer, a work list, and an archive—making data secure and available to all hospitals and departments in an enterprise and also available to organizations outside the enterprise, like an outside radiology group.
While a viewer, work list and archive may look like separate products, there's a lot of overlap in how they need to interact to work efficiently. Here are three key benefits of a distributed imaging environment:
When choosing the right PACS for your organization
- Data security and stability. Take, for example, a system that consists of five hospitals, five different radiology PACS, and five different cardiology PACS. Each PACS will likely reach end of life at a different time. The vendor-neutral archive’s (VNA) role in distributed imaging is to ensure that the enterprise's data is secure and stable, which is critical for an enterprise’s normal operation. Information can be served up quickly in the right format for the viewer that wants to display the data. When it comes to disaster recovery and business continuity, or even a planned downtime event (e.g. an upgrade), a distributed imaging solution with a well-designed VNA in place is a safe bet due to the availability of data and interoperability features – you can bring up your other systems accessing the VNA one by one.
- Lower-cost radiology services. Traditionally, radiologists have read reports on the PACS system provided by their hospital. Teleradiology providers started the trend to providing interpretations on their own PACS systems. This trend is only accelerating as more and more radiology groups are bringing their own PACS and using the technology to read studies across multiple hospitals. In such cases, retaining the data but enabling the radiology group to use its work list and viewer can be more efficient and less expensive for the hospital.
- More cost-efficient upgrades. With distributed imaging, providers don't have to upgrade their entire PACS at one time – they can upgrade components of the solution individually. The added expense to change an entire PACS is much more than just changing viewers and making other bite-sized improvements over time. Distributed imaging also gives a facility the freedom to upgrade more often and stay with the best of breed.
, it pays to inventory your own wants and needs. Think about how the pieces will work together around quality control. Think about support: who will you call when something breaks? In a multi-vendor environment, the customer will likely need to broker discussions around how to address issues that touch more than one product. Finally, think about whether new business models might be worth exploring.
Today’s distributed imaging is giving providers more options than ever. Embrace the change.
For the flipside of this PACS discussion read Reconstructing PACS to Deliver Optimal Performance and Integration
Jon T. DeVries is Vice President of Solutions Management at Merge Healthcare. Visit Merge on LinkedIn or Twitter.