PACS fails to make the grade in radiology courses

May 19, 2003

PACS may be widespread in radiology, but it is underused in academic radiology curricula, according to a study from Boston."For PACS to remain at the forefront of the electronic revolution in medicine, our educational goals must receive adequate

PACS may be widespread in radiology, but it is underused in academic radiology curricula, according to a study from Boston.

"For PACS to remain at the forefront of the electronic revolution in medicine, our educational goals must receive adequate support in term of both programming and PACS applications," said Dr. Sara M. Durfee of the radiology department at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

The educational mission of academic radiology must not be left behind in the development of the filmless radiology department, she said.

Durfee conducted a survey of directors of medical school radiology courses in the U.S. to determine the extent of digital integration. She found that while almost all universities (98%) had PACS available or were completely filmless, teaching case presentations often included film images displayed on a viewbox or projected overhead (Acad Radiol 2003;10(2):205-210).

Three respondents in filmless departments admitted they still do nondigital case presentations. The survey attributed this to large teaching collections on film that educators are reluctant to replace, lack of technical support, or resistance to change.

The study revealed other findings:
? computers dedicated to student use were not common (28%)
? the Web was used infrequently as a teaching resource
? a Web site was not available in most courses

Departments with PACS tend to use digital technology more often in teaching, perhaps because of the greater availability of digital images and digital equipment. In general, however, fewer than half of the radiology course directors surveyed use any digital methods in the classroom, the paper said.

"Despite rapid advances in technology and the integration of PACS into university radiology departments, the use of electronic media in radiology courses is surprisingly less frequent than expected, given the availability of computer equipment to students in more than half of the surveyed departments," Durfee said.

As information technology for clinical work becomes increasing available, it is vital that this technology be incorporated into the classroom, she said.

"Unfortunately, most PACS workstations are designed strictly to facilitate image interpretation. They do not include features to assist the educational mission of academic radiology, such as storage of teaching files, annotation, easy downloading, and flagging of interesting cases," Durfee said.

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