A Complete Guide to PACS Medical Imaging

As digitization and digital services become more popular, healthcare institutions are actively looking for ways to manage administrative workflows and process the growing number of digital files and the data analytics that come from them.

For many parts of the healthcare industry, especially diagnostic medical imaging, custom-designed software systems such as a PACS system or a RIS Radiology Information System that provide streamlined, secure file archiving and communications are changing the game. To show, capture, store, and share medical images in the quickest and most reliable way possible, radiologists now heavily rely on PACS software.

PACS system: What is it?

The PACS is a medical imaging device that stores and retrieves digital images taken by imaging modalities. It sends digital images and reports electronically, so there is no longer a need to file, find, and move film jackets by hand. PACS is used in healthcare facilities like hospitals, imaging centers, and radiology departments.

Healthcare professionals have a poor understanding of the history of PACS in healthcare and radiology. Although experts believed that the system was developed in 1979, its early adoption didn’t facilitate effective communication or file sharing between parties due to the incapability of archiving and displaying images among devices from different vendors. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and American College of Radiology didn’t start working on a standard for storing and sending medical images until the mid-1980s when the government was about to start keeping an eye on them. The result of this group work was the creation of the DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) standard in 1993.

PACS: Know the Image Types It Manages!

It has become a flexible tool that can be used to manage a wide selection of PACS medical images made by devices like:

  • Ultrasound (US)
  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Endoscopy (ES)
  • Magnetic resonance (MR)
  • Nuclear medicine imaging
  • Mammograms (MG)
  • Digital radiography (DR)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)
  • Phosphor plate radiography

The four main parts of a PACS

It is made up of four main parts:

Image acquisition devices (imaging modalities) – Image acquisition devices (imaging modalities) include PET, X-ray angiography, MRI, CT, echocardiography, etc. These devices and acquisition gateway computers make it easier to digitize images, which includes acquiring, converting to the PACS standard format (DICOM), and preprocessing image data (i.e., resizing, background removal, orientation calibration).

Communication networks These networks are essential for sending data to far-off places because they make it easy for medical data to move between all the parts of the PACS environment and other applications.

PACS archive and server The PACS server, the system’s main hub, stores all patient data and image files. The server’s two main parts, the archive system and the storage media are responsible for managing data storage and archiving. Also, Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) collects, standardizes, and stores PACS images and data in a central, highly accessible, and interoperable digital archive. So, you can get rid of the siloed storage groups that come from different PACS systems used by different healthcare departments, like radiology PACS.

Integrated display workstations (WS) – The display WSs are very important for a clinician to be able to understand the images made by the different modalities. These WSs are also known as diagnostic WSs because they can help radiologists and clinicians make a primary diagnosis. Access, manipulation, evaluation, and documentation are some of the basic image processing functions offered by the WS.

How does PACS software function?

Sequenced structures are important to make sure that the system works as accurately and well as possible. Three main structures make up this series:

Main server –The system as a whole depends on this server to function. It is in charge of communicating with the database structure, RIS interface, DICOM image import/export gateway, web servers, and other infrastructure related to image distribution.

Database –This is the place where PACS stores all the necessary data to operate, including patient and study-related information, such as reports, notes, exams, and more

HL7 (Health Level 7) – This part of the server gets information from the RIS and sends it to the PACS.

The PACS Archive stores and compresses DICOM imaging files, and it is divided into two subcategories. It ensures “full fidelity” to store DICOM images with a lower compression ratio while maintaining quality. “Clinical” makes reporting more efficient by using a higher compression ratio to reduce file size and save server space.

Who makes use of PACS?

PACS has found applications in various fields, such as cardiology, nuclear medicine imaging, pathology, dermatology, and oncology.In the past, radiology was the main field that made X-ray images.

Primary Applications of PACS

The four main applications of the radiology PACS system are:

Hard copy replacement –It intends to provide a paperless substitute for existing medical image management systems, such as film archives.

Remote access – Teleradiology PACS facilitates teleradiology solutions by providing the same information to healthcare professionals in different locations simultaneously. It surpasses the capabilities of traditional systems such as distance learning and telediagnosis

Electronic image integration platform – It acts as an electronic interface between several medical automation systems, such as the Electronic Medical Record (EMR), Hospital Information System (HIS), Radiology Information System (RIS), and Practice Management Software, for the exchange of radiology images.

Radiology workflow management – Radiologists use it to organize their patient exam workflow.

How are Radiology Information Systems (RIS) and PACS Integrated?

The healthcare organizations use RIS PACS integration solution to increase productivity and get the most out of their radiology resources. By combining these two solutions into one, you get the best of both worlds while improving service to doctors and patients. The RIS can combine imaging and workflow management data to produce a more in-depth, comprehensive radiology report. The software allows radiology, other clinical departments, facilities, and remote teams to have seamless, virtual real-time access to images and studies. As a result, these reports help both referring doctors and their patients have a better service experience.

Hopefully, you have understood Pacs medical imaging in depth by now!

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