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IT matters: How radiologists solved their PACS problems

March 14, 2017
Health IT
By Gregory P. Burnell

Several years ago, after suffering with overly complex and costly PACS operational challenges, radiologists and technologists at Sunshine Radiology in central Florida decided to try a different approach to solve the problem. What research indicated was the primary culprit for most of the daily challenges radiologists faced, surprised everyone. It wasn’t a technology problem. It was a reading station problem. Most radiologists were simply sitting in front of underpowered, out-of-date reading stations. With more than 45 radiologists, including subspecialists, delivering services across nine facilities, inadequate and limited access to multiple PACS was a huge problem for Sunshine Radiology.

Their radiologists were in a tough spot to keep up with growing workloads, while at the same time delivering the quality of work expected by client hospitals. In considering the problem, they realized that VNAs and overlays, which attempt to remedy the multi-PACS conundrum by collecting different workflows and DICOM images into a single neutral archive, weren’t the solution. The issue with different PACS systems is they often use proprietary DICOM transfer protocols, are subject to strict HIPAA regulation and have prohibitive multimillion-dollar implementation costs. When you factor in the poor availability of high bandwidth Internet — which is critical to the success of VNAs — coupled with the years of development it takes to create a working shared image archive, the result would be a logistical nightmare.

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Furthermore, these competing factors bring a level of politics that can easily derail any project. What happens when competing hospitals don’t want to share their databases of patient information? What happens when it takes a radiologist an extra 20 to 40 seconds to download a DICOM study, simply because of the time it takes for data to travel the distance between the radiologist and the third-party solution? These were seconds — and minutes — that Sunshine simply didn’t have to spare. This wasted time affects the quality of the reads being performed, the volume capacity of any given radiologist, resulting in fewer reads per shift, as well as lower patient satisfaction.

That’s when they hit upon a solution that would allow every radiologist to perform at peak productivity levels. Working closely with their engineers, the team designed a unique and elegant solution to make their lives better, less stressful and more productive. They created a “Radiology PACS Network” within their hospital region. They could now seamlessly and instantaneously access any PACS and associated work lists at any time, from anywhere.

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