PACS monitoring systems: Don't call us, we'll call you

November 12, 2001

Most PACS and RIS packages come equipped with software tools that let users monitor information and image flow through the system. A number of watchdog systems are on the market, including Agfa's PACSWatch and Siemens' MagicWatch. How these systems are

Most PACS and RIS packages come equipped with software tools that let users monitor information and image flow through the system. A number of watchdog systems are on the market, including Agfa's PACSWatch and Siemens' MagicWatch.

How these systems are used can have a direct impact on whether an enterprise meets its service level agreements. The Cleveland Clinic, for instance, uses its monitoring tool to eavesdrop on network activity and system performance at each node. Adverse network events trigger automatic alarms to alert support and service staff.

"We can improve service support levels by combining proactive monitoring of systems and operations with effective policy and procedures that detail the steps to be taken when thresholds are exceeded or problems identified," said Louis M. Lannum from the Cleveland Clinic radiology division.

Although preventing problems without adequate monitoring is next to impossible, the products themselves are mere display tools. A staff that knows how to use the information is necessary to improve support.

At the Cleveland Clinic, the radiology informatics group formed a core operations center (OP-Center) around its monitoring tool (MagicWatch). OP-Center is designed to identify, troubleshoot, and respond to network and system problem events such as bottlenecks, outages, and performance degradations.

Prior to creation of OP-Center, system monitoring was divided into three service groups within radiology informatics:

?PACS group, responsible for image distribution and archiving
?system support group, which handled the RIS application and dictation systems
?help desk, which provided hardware maintenance and desktop support


"Informatics was constantly putting out fires identified by the end user," Lannum said. "Troubleshooting problems without appropriate tools and monitors was difficult and often time-consuming."

The installation of a monitoring system and consolidation of support under the OP-Center umbrella has increased support levels while improving quality of service, according to the Clinic.

Monitoring tools poll the status of all nodes on the network, including digital acquisition modalities, viewing stations, image archiving systems, and network switches and routers, as well as operating systems and PACS applications running on workstations.

Active node status is constantly displayed on the OP-Center screens, and alarms sound to alert support staff to potential problems, such as memory bottleneck probabilitie