PACS sidesteps busy signals in hospital telecommunications

June 14, 2005

Telephone calls from referring physicians to radiology administrative services dropped nearly 80% following PACS implementation and enterprise image distribution at a large European hospital, according to a paper presented at the Society for Computer Applications in Radiology annual meeting.

Telephone calls from referring physicians to radiology administrative services dropped nearly 80% following PACS implementation and enterprise image distribution at a large European hospital, according to a paper presented at the Society for Computer Applications in Radiology annual meeting.

While the impact of PACS on radiology telephone traffic was significant, the decrease was not consistent throughout the department, said Pieter Devolder of the University Hospital Ghent in Belgium.

Although the total number of internal telephone calls to administrative services dropped radically, the decline in calls to radiologists was less dramatic, he said.

Investigators reported a 40% reduction in calls to radiologists, although noteworthy differences between staff radiologists and residents or residents-in-training persisted.

The diminishing number of calls to administrative services can be explained by the instant availability of images throughout the enterprise, according to Devolder.

"Clinicians call less often after PACS and enterprise image distribution to find out the whereabouts of images or reports," he said.

The decline in calls to radiologists was smaller because clinicians still consult with the radiologist as they review a study on the PACS Web server.

Reduced telephone communications has resulted in a more efficient department workflow.

"Telephone communication is labor-intensive," Devolder said. "It demands the attention of the radiologist for the duration of the call, interrupting workflow."

Devolder monitored telephone traffic for a month prior to PACS implementation, tracking parameters such as call origination, time of day, and duration. The process was repeated for a similar period following installation.

The study was made easier by the fact that Ghent University Hospital has the largest installed wireless telephone base in Europe, and the third largest in the world, Devolder said. Nearly every member of the staff is issued a personal portable phone, making call tracking easy and precise.