New Siemens IT platform automates more steps

January 14, 2010

At least some of the tedium that goes with preparing imaging studies may be pushed into the background, and new capabilities brought to the fore, with the rollout this month of Siemens’ syngo.via

At least some of the tedium that goes with preparing imaging studies may be pushed into the background, and new capabilities brought to the fore, with the rollout this month of Siemens’ syngo.via. The new product, scheduled for commercial release in September, integrates imaging modalities with IT and then, using the computing power built into the syngo server, automates otherwise time-consuming tasks while serving as a bridge to advanced clinical capabilities.

Fox Chase Cancer Center is among the first to get a taste of the new technology. As an alpha site for several months and beta tester since late July, Fox Chase has been using syngo.via as an easy pathway to 3D. The IT software reads descriptors coming off MR and CT scans, applies workflow presets established by staff radiologists, then automatically processes and displays the data at PACS workstations as, for example, multiplanar reconstructions, maximum intensity projections, or volumetric models.

Syngo.via overcomes a shortcoming of most advanced visualization software by integrating advanced capabilities tightly with an underlying PACS. This puts 3D a click rather than a workstation away, an important consideration at Fox Chase.

“We have had challenges over the years when we try to bring in new technologies,” said Brian Vecchiarelli, clinical systems manager for Fox Chase. “Our reading rooms begin to look like mission control with three or four different systems.”

Another advantage of syngo.via is the automation it brings. Data are processed quickly-in exactly the same way every time, following specific rules-and without bothering technologists, who are then free to keep scanning patients.

“What we are seeing is where radiology reading is going,” said Dr. Bart Milestone, vice chair of radiology at Fox Chase. “Right now people look at axial images, but I think eventually radiologists will start using more 3D as their primary reads.”

Syngo.via is being primed to assist in that transition, but the system is not constrained to it. The product, an outgrowth of the syngo platform Siemens has used for years to provide consistency in data processing among its modalities, is designed to accelerate workflow, any workflow. With about a year of clinical tests under its belt, Siemens expects customers to use the software enterprise-wide to streamline preparation of medical images by automating the tedious and timeconsuming tasks that otherwise bog down the diagnostic process.

“Whenever a scan is acquired, data are sent to the syngo.via application server where syngo detects what it needs to do,” said Arthur Kaindl, CEO of Siemens image and knowledge management. “It matches the scan to the appropriate workflow.”

Cardiac CT offers a prime example. Having recognized the type of scan and matched it to preset rules of processing, syngo.via may remove the blood pool and ribs, select the best suitable cardiac phase, then segment and label the coronary arteries, Kaindl said.

“We have statements from customers saying that they can reduce CT angiography reading time from an average of 20 or 25 minutes to about five minutes,” Kaindl said. “So it is a fivefold increase in spread of reading, thanks to automatic case preparation.”

Another advantage of syngo.via is structured case navigation, whereby the Siemens software goes through various zones of the body and prepares them for reading. Syngo.via further speeds the diagnostic process process of information sharing. This integration is optimized by data-streaming studies to colleagues and referring physicians using technology that shortens the transit time of images.

At Fox Chase, syngo.via has been groomed to address radiologists’ need for advanced visualization. Even though 3D processing is built into the center’s native PACS, a Philips iSite, staff radiologists have shied away from using it. Milestone said Philips’ 3D capability requires going to a separate workstation.

“At that point it is always an additional step, and in a radiologist’s workflow, anytime you add complexity, you’re going to reduce throughput,” he said.

Siemens syngo.via overcomes the problem by integrating with the Philips iSite. Its 3D is a single click away and the output from processed studies is displayed on PACS workstations.

Other connections besides 3D are coming and some may be even more transparent. Siemens is experimenting at Fox Chase, for example, with computer-aided detection algorithms. These may run in the background, looking for pulmonary nodules and signs of embolism in chest CTs.