Blog your PACS

October 5, 2005

E-mail for communication is yesterday’s news. Blogging, a buzzword in media and Internet circles, has come to digital imaging.

E-mail for communication is yesterday's news. Blogging, a buzzword in media and Internet circles, has come to digital imaging.

Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a method for using a Weblog, or blog, as an effective, searchable knowledge repository particularly appropriate in PACS environments.

"Projects as complex and enduring as PACS implementation and maintenance require constant communication between stakeholders," said Pattanasak Mongkolwat, Ph.D., a research assistant professor of radiology at Northwestern.

Blogs succeed in this task where other Internet-based communication methods fail, he said.

Mongkolwat and colleagues described their method in the September online edition of the Journal of Digital Imaging (J Digit Imaging. 2005 Sep 2; [Epub ahead of print]).

While e-mail is still the prevalent form of communication on the Internet, it fails as a true medium for publishing and swapping ideas and comments because of its lack of centralized archiving, Mongkolwat said. Listserver software is likewise not ideally suited to act as a project knowledge repository.

Blogs allow users to disseminate as well as search for information while acquiring, implementing, and maintaining PACS.

"Blogs offer an organized forum that allows PACS stakeholders to create, identify, track, and collect a variety of PACS-specific data, including documents, spreadsheets, discussions, decisions, project planning, milestones, and frequently asked questions," he said.

A typical blog site is composed of time-stamped entries arranged chronologically in last-in-first-out fashion. Entries may contain any combination of text, images, hyperlinks, or embedded audio and video files.

Blog archives allow users to browse and search older content.

"Blogs can even be cross-published to other blogs through the use of rich site syndication, posing an interesting opportunity for multiple institutions utilizing similar PACS to share information," Mongkolwat said.

Choosing a free blogging package such as Blogger (Pyra Labs) can be a simple entree into the blogosphere for novices. Blogger provides servers, Weblog software, and support in addition to instant publishing, template-driven design, script compatibility, and file transfer protocol. New users can start publishing almost immediately.

"Blogger does not, however, provide advanced security mechanisms, advertising control, or the ability to search archives," he said.

Mongkolwat evaluated several do-it-yourself blogging solutions:

  • Radio is widely used on both Windows and Mac OS X platforms.

  • Moveable Type is comprehensive, though possibly too complex for beginners.

  • TikiWiki offers blog, calendar, chat room, FAQ, Web mail, poll, quizzes, rich site syndication feed, site search, and tracker.

  • bBlog is free, template-driven software that also lacks a security feature.

  • phpbb is free and simple to install.

Northwestern eventually deployed moderately priced Invision Power Board.

The complete installation process, including downloading necessary software components and configuring the system, took approximately two hours, according to Mongkolwat.

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