Feature | April 03, 2009

Riding the Coattails of PACS

Did you ever notice how PACS is the vehicle that drives the other software applications to the end-users? Not surprisingly, the goal of so many medical applications is to become integrated into PACS – and then you’re golden.
Take CAD for example. It has been trying for years to become a ‘must have’ in PACS, which it has achieved to a certain extent in mammography PACS – probably because after many debates and back-and-forths in the NEJM last July, there are still many radiologists that use it as a second read. Better safe than sorry. Yet, other CAD solutions, take colon for example, must forge ahead, despite falling through the cracks of Medicare reimbursement.
Another application that has made tremendous strides in adoption is advanced visualization. In fact, advanced visualization has become such an integral part of PACS that it’s not a question of if you’re using 3D/4D software but whether you are using it efficiently. To further bolster its importance, 3D images are used in an increasing number of clinical applications and across a widening array of care settings. Several years ago, the PACS vendors identified this trend, but were delayed when they got caught up securing orthopedics and mammography. Finally, by RSNA 2008, vendors showed off their in-house efforts with at least built-in basic 3D functionality (like MIP, MPR) in their PACS.
Others took the OEM route and licensed the 3D technology to sell to their customers embedded in their PACS. The independent advanced visualization developers have maintained an important presence of their own - and we have featured those players in a separate chart entitled ‘Independent Advanced Visualization,’ found on page 19 of this issue. The moral of the story is, PACS can take some credit for widespread 3D access.
Other applications such as speech recognition (SR) have become an integral part of RIS/PACS. And SR is now stretching the chain of command by driving other applications like critical results, peer review, medical reference programs and data mining applications. Watch as the next generation of SR incorporates multimedia, and a live, interactive database. Get full details on these new developments in the article ‘Speech Recognition Supports Evidence-Based Medicine’ on page 27 of the Special Report of this issue.
Next, have you heard – if you use your PACS in a ‘meaningful way,’ (i.e., transferring medical images and data through an EHR), and if your PACS merges with the EHR highway, then it may qualify for incentives from the $19 billion earmarked by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) over the next five years.
“If PACS...is defined as a module as part of an EHR, then it would qualify.” Learn more about this in the article ‘Get a Piece of the EHR Action’ in this month’s Special Report.
So, while all of the apps board the “all-on-PACS” bus, now it’s PACS’ turn to ride the coat- tails of the EHRs and benefit from the economic stimulus package too. Just make sure you use your PACS in a ‘meaningful way.’

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