Picture Archive and Communication System (PACS) is a medical imaging technology used by radiology professionals to store & communicate all the diagnostic imaging files. Primarily, PACS is used to securely store the images in an archive and to digitally transmit electronic images and clinically relevant reports. The transmitted images can be retrieved & viewed on video screens so that the information can be accessed by physicians and compared with the previous images at the touch of a button. PACS eradicates the need to manually file and store, retrieve and send sensitive information, films and reports. Standard 2D images along with 3D images can be stored in a PACS.
PACS is chiefly utilized to make it easier to manage all the images that are required to assess the status of a patient undergoing treatment. PACS offers a cost-effective access to images from various source modalities such as computed tomography, X-ray plain film, magnetic resonance imaging, computed radiography, nuclear medicine imaging, mammograms, ultrasound, positron emission tomography, endoscopy, etc. PACS utilizes the universal format DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) for image storage and transfer. Non-image data has to be initially encapsulated in DICOM and then can be incorporated in standard formats such as like PDF (Portable Document Format). The drawback of PACS is that the images are to be retrieved manually and cannot be retrieved automatically.
PACS consists of four major components:
- Imaging modalities such as X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging & computed tomography.
- Secured network for exchange of patient images.
- Workstation or mobile device for viewing & interpreting images and
- Electronic archives for storing and retrieving images and reports.
This medical imaging technology has proved to be quite beneficial and has several advantages associated with it. Some of them are as follows:
- Replaces the requirement for hard-copy films.
- Offers off-site viewing & remote access.
- Allows zooming in on images and manipulates them for improved clarity.
- Enables viewing of the same image by clinicians in different locations simultaneously.
- Enables easy comparison with past images.
- Provides a platform for images to interface with other medical automation systems.
- Provides higher-quality images and hence, more accurate diagnosis can be made.
- Helps in quick & easy access to the images in digital format.
- Images once stored in PACS cannot get lost or misplaced.
- Creates multiple copies of the same image.
- Helps in better diagnosis.
- Reduces radiation exposure.
- Enhances the speed & quality of reporting.
- Reliable mode.
- Easy to use.
- Expensive equipment.
- Requires dedicated maintenance team to ensure its optimum performance.
- Requires trained hospital personnel.
- Improper back-up storage can hinder the data retrieval.
- High bandwidth internet connection required.
Cloud-Based PACS Solutions
Cloud-based PACS solutions are the latest market development in regards to PACS. This is an online process to store patient data and digital images. In this system, at the time of creation, the data files & images are automatically transferred and stored in the cloud. The data can be accessed by the users anywhere, and anytime. The cloud-based PACS can be accessed by simply logging in a PACS application over the internet. Cloud-based system requires the presence of a high-speed, bandwidth internet connection. High-speed internet connection is required as the speed shall be responsible for accessing and downloading medical images from the online archive. There are several differences between a Cloud-based PACS & a traditional PACS; the major difference is that in Cloud-based PACS everything is hosted off-site in a centrally managed data center.
PACS, the medical imaging storage technology is gaining increasing popularity as the volume of transmission of digital medical images & the analysis of the images is increasing throughout the healthcare industry. According to a recent market research, PACS is expected to be the first choice for medical image management solutions. A research report states that during the forecast period of 2017-2023, PACS market is expected to grow at a CAGR 7.0%. The usefulness of Picture Archiving and Communication Systems is growing as it has become an important tool for among the healthcare organizations as it enables the physicians to quickly share and access images in different locations. Healthcare organizations are adopting medical image management and PACS tools to meet the growing demand of PACS.
About the Author
Dr. Varsha Sharma-Kapila is an Associate Professor & Guide to post graduate students at Dr. G D Pol Foundation, YMT Homoeopathic Medical College, Mumbai. She is a renowned Consultant Homeopath – an MD (Hom) – having a vast experience of treating several acute & chronic ailments. She has been practicing homeopathy for over two decades and can be reached on – firstname.lastname@example.org.