Commentary: The joy of going digital

November 22, 2004

There are those that have and those that have not.

There are those that have and those that have not.

"When it comes to PACS, if you're a have-not, you look ancient," Gordon Ah Tye said.

Ah Tye is director of imaging services at Sequoia Imaging Center in Visalia, CA, part of Kaweah Delta Health Care, and a former president of American Healthcare Radiology Administrators. He's been doing this kind of work for the last 20 years, and in that time, he's ordered a lot of equipment. Lately, it's all been digital.

If not for PACS, he wondered what we would do with all the films. The hundreds per study that would come off multislice CTs, for example?

"Radiologists would get awful tired of popping them up on a box," he said.

It's the way PACS has changed medical practice that makes it worthwhile. The change in efficiency is obvious. Today radiology is all about turnaround time, he said. PACS makes soft-copy reading a must. Without it, radiologists couldn't keep up. Referring docs wouldn't get the reports and images anytime near as soon. Ah Tye says PACS has spoiled them.

"We used to see referring docs all the time because they would come down to look at the films. Now they can access the images from any workstation," Ah Tye said. "No more dealing with films that have gotten lost by another referring physician. No more having to check them out or pick them up or deliver them. It's instantaneous."

The page you're reading will be like that when DI SCAN goes paperless in a few weeks. Call it up on your computer. Read it at your desk or on the plane or on the subway.

Forgot to bring it with you? It'll be in your e-mail. Don't like e-mail? Pick it up from our Web site. It's hard to believe we waited this long.

Of course, going digital means a lot of the fun will be gone. The thrill of the hunt - chasing down the last issue that was routed around the company - will be, well, over. With access to the SCAN database, you'll be tempted to search out all the articles on, say, PACS. Click, they'll be there. Not nearly as fun as searching through one issue after the other, photocopying or OCR'ing articles into your report.

I imagine we're going to miss the good old days. Eventually.