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DICOM committee improves modality work flow

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DICOM committee improves modality work flowThe DICOM Standards Committee has added a new component to the standard that improves medical imaging work flow by allowing radiologists to conclusively determine when an imaging study has been

DICOM committee improves modality work flow

The DICOM Standards Committee has added a new component to the standard that improves medical imaging work flow by allowing radiologists to conclusively determine when an imaging study has been completed and is available at the workstation. Called modality performed procedure step (MPPS), the new service also allows a healthcare institution's information system to promptly remove patients from the radiology department's schedule after they are scanned.

MPPS will complement the modality worklist service, which allows imaging modalities such as CT, MR, ultrasound, and digital radiography systems to retrieve scheduling information and patient demographics. Added to the DICOM standard in 1996, modality worklist provides a major improvement in efficiency by eliminating dual patient data entries (after the information has been entered into an information system) and guarantees that the patient and corresponding study components are uniquely identified. Nearly every major modality manufacturer offers this service or will offer it before the end of this year.

Using modality worklist, a modality such as a CT scanner can retrieve the schedule for all CT scans on a particular morning. After performing the imaging study, the scanner begins sending images to a diagnostic workstation, but until MPPS was added, no mechanism was in place to inform the workstation when the image acquisition was complete. As such, radiologists were unable to definitively determine whether a technologist had sent only part of the study or if the connection had gone down in the middle of a transfer.

PACS networks that employ MPPS will instantly be able to determine whether an examination is in progress or has been completed. Upon completion of the study, MPPS provides a list of all the images that have been acquired. Radiologists can then reliably determine whether or not all the necessary imaging information is available.

In addition, MPPS can be used to provide information from a modality on supplies that are used at the scanner. During radiographic studies, the service also provides information about the administered x-ray dose. This capability is a mandatory requirement in several countries, particularly in Europe.

Although the service was just approved in the spring, expect to see demos at this year's Radiological Society of North America meeting. Also, the Department of Veterans Affairs is requiring that all modality vendors provide this service, and all users could benefit by including it in any request for proposal for new modality purchases.

-Herman Oosterwijk, president, OTech Consultants (herman@otechimg.com)

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