PACS purchases call for wily shopping

June 4, 2005

Spending more for PACS does not necessarily mean you will get more, a SCAR University session learned Saturday.

Spending more for PACS does not necessarily mean you will get more, a SCAR University session learned Saturday.

"Vendors who build their PACS on old hardware platforms find the cost of parts and service is higher than newer systems," said Paul Nagy, Ph.D., an assistant professor of radiology at the University of Maryland Medical System.

Nagy presented a few practical tips for the budget-minded PACS shopper who is buying PACS on a shoestring budget or replacing an original system.

"No PACS lasts forever, and the second time around, hospital administration will probably give you less money," he said.

Nagy said the key to saving money is being an educated consumer.

"No one has time to be an expert in all aspects of the technology being investigated," he said. "It is a matter of what areas are worth your time and energy."

Monitors are an example of an area where prospective PACS purchasers can save money.

New 21-inch commercial color LCD monitors have seen recent dramatic cost reductions and now provide a cost benefit four to five times that of medical-grade monitors, according to Nagy.

"Technically, these monitors have become an optimal solution to consider for medical imaging applications that do not require very high resolution," he said.

Most LCDs support 2 megapixels, more than adequate for diagnostic-quality review of all modalities, with the exceptions of computed radiography and diagnostic radiography, and they handily exceed the 47 foot-lambert brightness requirements of the American College of Radiology for diagnostic monitors.

Nagy said another advantage is the ability of LCDs to pivot into a vertical position, the way most imaging modalities orient studies.

Storage systems are another area where the wise PACS shopper can save.

"Storage systems used to be a substantial part of a PACS purchase," Nagy said. "SCSI hard drives have long been the standard of enterprise storage, with costs three to four times that of the commercial IDE or serial ATA hard drives that are used in most personal computers."

Nagy cited the key customer metric as how fast can you download your files off the storage device. Commercial drives grouped together in a RAID configuration can readily keep up with gigabit networks today.

"SCSI drives only provide advantage where the files requested are very small," he said.

Nagy suggested buying only the storage you need, with no more than six months of storage on hand.

"The cost of storage continues to move at Moore's Law, halving in cost every 18 months," he said.