Integration and scalable products leave PACS poised to prosperEntry-level systems attract first-time buyers at RSNAJudging by the number of vendors promoting image management and archiving products at the recent RSNA meeting, PACS has
Entry-level systems attract first-time buyers at RSNA
Judging by the number of vendors promoting image management and archiving products at the recent RSNA meeting, PACS has finally come of age. Of the more than 600 commercial exhibitors, nearly half claimed some kind of PACS or PACS-related product. In particular, the emphasis on integration and scalability signal that both the technology and the industry have reached a new level of maturity.
But first impressions can be deceiving, and it appears that PACS remains a daunting investment for most radiologists. The multitude of products on the market does not make selection of the appropriate configuration any easier. One radiologist, after three days of evaluating PACS products at the show, said he has decided to hire a consultant to help his group determine what type of PACS installation it should purchase.
And for the most part, customers still see PACS as a large-scale investment, especially with the increasing integration of this technology with various clinical information systems and multimodality imaging systems. Fortunately, several vendors have responded to this problem with entry-level PACS products that are both scalable and relatively affordable.
These products include Web- and Windows NT-based PACS workstations with user-friendly interfaces and modular components that can be mixed and matched according to the customers needs and scaled up as the installation warrants. These systems are also designed to enable enterprise-wide image distribution on standard desktop PCs, making image access and transfer practical outside the radiology department. The idea is to stimulate the market by simplifying the transition to digital imaging and archiving and making it more attractive to smaller hospitals and clinics that are just beginning to consider an investment in PACS.
Despite the number of products and enhancements introduced at the meeting, however, there was little that was truly new. For the most part, vendors both large and small were promoting features that are becoming almost standard, including scalability, workflow management, image compression, Web-based architectures, multimodality support, and embedded RIS/PACS integration.
Some of the most interesting new products at the meeting were those designed to enhance PACS and RIS workflow and productivity. These included the Web-based image-distribution technologies being developed and promoted by Stentor (PNN 11/99), ImageMedical, RealTime Image, and LizardTech (PNN 6/99), and advanced voice-recognition capabilities now being offered as add-ons by most major PACS vendors.