Considering how you plan to use the images you will be reading and reviewing is a key factor in deciding which PACS System is best for your practice. Is your goal to transform your practice into a filmless environment? Are you seeking to access the highest image quality possible? Are you interested in the most cost effective way to transfer images from a remote setting? By factoring in your intended clinical use of the PACS System and all the possible inherent image quality requirements you require for reading and reviewing patient files, you will be well-equipped to make the best decision.
The right PACS System should provide flexibility and convenience, not only by moving to a completely digital environment, but also by providing software that makes your team more productive.
DICOM Imaging vs. Non-DICOM
A PACS System that utilizes the Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine, or DICOM, format will provide the highest image quality and the greatest level of flexibility. By acquiring images through this method, you are reading, reviewing, and using the original data that is created at the device level. Ideally, images in the PACS System you choose will be stored in this standard DICOM format. Different PACS Systems have different levels of DICOM support, so do your homework. A PACS provider stating they support DICOM does not guarantee that the vendor operates in strict adherence to this communications standard. With a DICOM standard verified system, the medical images you read and review will be displayable at both the spatial and contrast revolution values with which they were first acquired.
Image Compression Considerations
With so much data entering and stored in the system, certain PACS Systems compress the images to save space and increase speed. This doesn’t necessarily mean that images are compromised, but it should be a consideration. Image compression can be acceptable as long as the diagnostic assessment made as a result of viewing the images is not affected in any way. To ensure this, any compression used must be applied before the radiologist has reviewed the images and data; then, he/she is able to use the native resolutions when reading. Heavy compression should not be applied after the radiology review.
To avoid the cost and hassle of multiple PACS Systems, you’ll want a PACS System that supports various modalities. The rights PACS System can handle imaging modalities such as nuclear medicine, nuclear cardiology, multi-slice CT, vascular ultrasound, and ECG. Ensuring that you have the connectivity, data encoding/decoding, and clinical protocols in place when making your initial investment will save time, energy, and money in the future.