PACS help wanted: Renaissance men/women inquire within

January 15, 2001

Sometimes it's easier to find a suitable PACS than it is to find someone up to the task of administering it. First, you need a person who understands how the imaging department works, said Charles E. Willis, Ph.D., PACS coordinator at Texas Children's

Sometimes it's easier to find a suitable PACS than it is to find someone up to the task of administering it.

First, you need a person who understands how the imaging department works, said Charles E. Willis, Ph.D., PACS coordinator at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. Second, you need someone with a functional understanding of information technology. And third, the person should have interpersonal and communication skills, because the job demands listening and explaining to others in order to get anything done.

"Adaptability is an important personal attribute to seek," Willis said. "No individual is going to be able to do it all alone. We're fresh out of Renaissance men."

When one appears, salary can range from $50,000 to $90,000, depending on whether the individual is home-grown inside the organization or a well-known expert with direct relevant experience. Salary range depends on the candidate's qualifications and how much an organization will have to pay to compete with the booming information technology business to snare the candidate.

"If they can get more money within their own field, why would they want to take on this octopus of a job?" Willis said.

Because PACS technology is changing rapidly, adaptability and the ability to learn on the job may be as important as formal education, he added.

"But the person needs to have at least completed a formal course of study at the associate level, otherwise they will be regarded as an upgraded secretary or gopher instead of a professional peer of other administrators of similar systems in the healthcare enterprise," he said.

A bachelor's degree is preferable, mainly because the candidate's communications skills and formal background will be broader, and he or she may have had exposure to the technology in a classroom setting.

According to Patricia Whelan, PACS administrator at Massachusetts General Hospital, the following are the best ways to become educated about PACS:
?Visit a site that has a PACS manager who can relate the good, the bad, and the otherwise;
?Attend meetings of the Society for Computer Applications in Radiology, which offers sessions on PACS administration;
?Invite vendors to share their experiences in PACS management;
?Hire a consultant who has experience in PACS management to advise you; and
?Get in touch with PACS user groups, such as APUG (Agfa's PACS User Group at http://www.apug.net/), a largely untapped resource.
"Beyond this, experience is gained in the school of hard knocks, perhaps working as a PACS analyst," Willis said.