PAC systems allow for the storage and convenient access to images from multiple sources. Moreover, because PAC systems transmit information digitally, items such as manual storage, file retrieval, and the physical delivery of medical files are now virtually extinct. Even with these advances, PAC systems continue to improve as new technologies emerge. Here are a few ways in which PAC systems are expected to change in the next five years:
Anywhere, Anytime Access
Although medical imaging has come a long way from film jackets and other physical copies of information, there is still room for improvement in how PAC systems make information accessible to physicians and patients. Combined with available and emerging web technology, PAC systems are expected to further enhance anywhere-and-anytime access through information sharing using cloud storage. The move from onsite storage to cloud-based storage will allow physicians access to medical records from virtually anywhere—at home, at work, and from smartphones and tablets. This eliminates the physical and time barriers associated with being tethered to a single onsite storage medium. Users will be able to access medical data at any time and from anywhere that has Internet availability.
Most PAC systems use onsite storage on a single server to store information. Recently, however, there has been a departure from this traditional storage method to cloud-based storage, which houses data virtually and permits access to the data via the Internet. As this new method of storage continues to gain popularity, PAC vendors are expected to move from on-premise, single access storage systems to the cloud model. Moreover, because cloud storage is easily scalable, storage will expand to cope with increased use, making data storage practically unlimited.
New Compliance Capabilities
The security of stored data and data in transit has always been a concern when handling sensitive information on the cloud. As a result, PAC system security and compliance capabilities are consistently evolving to inhibit unauthorized access, use, error, or information loss. PAC system vendors continue to fine tune the technology to ensure that patient confidentiality is respected at all times. As PACS technology gradually develops over the next few years, physicians, technicians, and administrators can expect to observe stricter adherence to the privacy safeguards presented in the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Moreover, data loss will become a thing of the past because information will not be limited to a single server that is susceptible to crashes and other unexpected malfunctions.
The future of PACS technology also includes integrated reporting. With the functionality built in to notate and make edits, physicians and other health administrators can ensure that they are responsibly linking information to correct patient records. Integrated reporting will also eliminate misappropriation of sensitive medical information and enhance the level of care that physicians are able to afford their patients, particularly in diagnosing disease.
Vendor Neutral Archiving
Vendor neutral archiving is steadily establishing itself as part of the medical imaging technology mainstream. With vendor neutral archiving, physicians and other medical administrators will not be limited to viewing only those images and documents that are compatible with their system. Instead, all information of any clinical relevance will be stored and readily available in a standard format with a standard interface that can be interpreted by any medical imaging system available.
Even though PAC system technology is light years ahead of film jackets and paper folders, much of its potential is still being developed. However, this is good news, because as PACS technology continues to grow, so will the quality of medical services.