A vendor-neutral method for integrating case input from any PACS workstation into a teaching file system was presented at the RSNA conference.
"This method requires no vendor cooperation, effort, or software modification," said Dr. David Avrin, of the department of radiology informatics at the University of Utah.
Many institutions have developed digital teaching files, but few have solved the problem of true integration with commercial PACS workstations for case input, Avrin said.
One exception might be the UCSF-Agfa project, which does allow a selected file to be pushed off to a teaching file server at the time of reading, although vendor participation was required.
Vendor neutrality is important because teaching file systems are not a high priority among vendors. Providing teaching file integration at the workstation in an academic environment requires vendor cooperation and modification, and most do not offer that support.
"We saw a need for creating a vendor-neutral, no-cooperation method of integrating a server-based digital teaching file system with commercial PACS, enabling image selection and input at the time of readout," Avrin said.
According to Avrin, the only two requirements are:
· The PACS to which the workstation is attached or the workstation itself must support direct or indirect DICOM send. (Direct DICOM send means that the send originates from the workstation; indirect means that the workstation issues a command to the PACS server to send the case.)
· The workstation must support a suitable Web browser such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
"As my chairman at UCSF, Ron Arenson, has said for 20 years, PACS is the great enabler of the next-generation radiology department because it enables the creation of digital teaching content and computer-based education," Avrin said.
The problem is that the optimum time for case input is at the time of viewing, not later or after hours, as often occurs.
"Our goal with this project was to get rid of the 3 x 5 cards that radiologists take notes on and stuff in their pockets, containing medical record numbers of unique or interesting cases so that later they can figure a way to get those cases pulled from PACS and added to the teaching file," he said.