PACS vendors forge tools for distributed radiology services

March 9, 2010

PACS vendors in the technical exhibition at ECR 2010 are demonstrating some of the hottest gadgets that will be filling the toolbox of tomorrow’s distributed radiology services.

PACS vendors in the technical exhibition at ECR 2010 are demonstrating some of the hottest gadgets that will be filling the toolbox of tomorrow’s distributed radiology services.

Facing the intractable problem of stretching finite resources to meet an ever-growing demand, healthcare providers are increasingly seeking regional, or even national, solutions. New technologies offer the hope of being able to maintain quality of service by sharing professional competencies across geographically distant sites. So the leading companies have developed new applications aimed at providing the same advanced diagnostic capabilities wherever and whenever they may be needed.

Philips is showing a whole raft of applications available through its iSite PACS. These include Volume Vision, a tool that allows the radiologist to work with 3D images from multiple modalities, and a range of CT-specific applications, such as CT automated vessel analysis. These technologies are already available as plug-ins accessible on a main workstation, but by being integrated into the PACS, they will now be available throughout the enterprise.

“They are a set of clinically relevant and easy-to-use advanced visualization tools that help radiologists and clinicians increase diagnostic confidence and improve treatment planning and follow-up,” said Jaime Osborn-de Jong, marketing director for enterprise imaging informatics at Philips.

The iSite system open API (application programming interface) provides interoperability with clinical applications of other vendors’ equipment in other departments within the hospital network.

Carestream was a pioneer in integrating disparate processing and image analysis tools into its PACS workstations. It has now taken the process a step further with its latest version of PowerViewer, which offers advanced 3D capabilities such as multiplanar reconstructions and volumetric viewing. These features will allow radiologists to directly and dynamically view image data in different planes without having to switch to another application.

The system also allows automatic registration and direct volumetric matching of 3D studies created at different times and by different modalities. When one data set is manipulated in any spatial plane, the other data set automatically follows, said Ulf Andersson, European marketing director with the company. He believes that these features will have a significant impact on productivity and accelerate reporting times.

“That is because we can eliminate the time-consuming manual or semiautomatic processes currently used to set up comparison tools. Instead, radiologists can immediately use reference lines and the swivel, rotate, relate, and other tools within both current and prior imaging studies,” he said.

Sectra is unveiling a new PACS to meet the particular demands of national breast screening services, including the long-term storage of multiple images of healthy tissue and being able to display and compare with the most recent images. The new system is based on the company’s RapidConnect technology, designed to overcome reduced bandwidth and latency problems for radiologists and clinicians working at remote locations.

“What we have done is combine a proven mammography workflow-i.e., all its clinical and productivity features, such as blind double reading support, intelligent hanging of mammograms, and strong reporting functionality-with the performance of RapidConnect,” said Claes Lundström, director of radiology IT solutions at Sectra. “This results in higher performance in mammography reading, a shorter turnaround time for mammography cases, and strong clinical capabilities that will lead to improved diagnostic outcomes.”

With its new syngo.plaza PACS, Siemens Healthcare has set itself the ambitious goal of changing the way radiologists approach the task of reading multimodal images. The vendor claims the new system provides fast and accurate multimodality reading at a single workstation with one intuitive user interface.

When an image is obtained, syngo.plaza automatically identifies its type based on the scanner used. Then, in line with the case’s complexity, it calls up the corresponding 2D, 3D, or 4D applications in its syngo.via imaging software. Combined with a unified user interface, this allows for a smooth transition between different applications and helps speed up the reading workflow. Because of its functionality, this new solution makes it possible to view patient history at a glance, including previous examinations, written reports, and DICOM files, according to the company.

Agfa Healthcare is attempting to solve the technical problems of allowing referring physicians to access images stored within a PACS. Its solution is achieved through the Impax Data Center, a facility for large-scale multimedia storage of any DICOM 3.0 files, which consolidates imaging data from disparate systems via a regional electronic health record. Through enterprise-wide and vendor-neutral image management services, this technology lets diagnosticians select tools, offers clinicians comprehensive 24/7 access to images and results, and enhances image-focused communications among interdisciplinary care teams, according to the company.

These images and associated documents can be accessed through the Impax Data Center viewer, a zero-download medical image viewer designed to provide access for clinicians at any point of care, regardless of network constraints or platforms being used.

“There are a wide range of physical and technical barriers that can be problematic for many viewers. But with this technology, you enter the URL and, provided you have the right credentials, you can access images and reports using any browser-Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari or any other,” said Eric Maurincomme, chief strategy and marketing officer with Agfa.

GE Healthcare is expanding its range of imaging solutions with new developments in radiology, mammography, and cardiology, all aimed at providing seamless integration to meet the challenges of the modern healthcare environment. Centricity RIS/PACS is a web-based technology designed to connect radiologists, clinicians, and referring physicians with ultrafast streaming, advanced postprocessing, and business intelligence tools, said Juergen Reyinger, vice president and general manager at GE Healthcare IT EMEA. With its open standard-based architecture and portable Centricity Portal, the company claims it enables users to access the capabilities they need, regardless of time, location, or institution.

“Our latest release of Centricity PACS supports more than 900 customer sites around the globe and offers information at their fingertips: patient data, clinical documents and images, streamlined workflows, and improved communication among healthcare experts,” he said.

But perhaps the sharpest implement in the radiologist’s new toolbox is the electronic scalpel offered by PACSGear, a California-based company specializing in developing document and multimedia connectivity software.

“There can be a lot of bad data on a PACS included within the metadata. There are many possible mistakes-a patient’s name may be spelled wrong or be attached to another person’s examination, or the exam may have right and left mixed up,” said managing director Michael Schmidt. “For very good reasons, it is often difficult to change these details once they are in the system, but our software allows radiologists or PACS administrators to override protective codes and fix quality control problems. Called GEARView QC, the software allows these responsible persons to alter errors in any DICOM field, to edit studies, and to split or combine different exams. We can even overwrite pixilated data embedded on an image. And another good thing is that it works with any make of PACS.”

Note: a version of this article appeared in the 2010 ECR Today newspaper.