Paper provides open source eye opener

August 8, 2007

Open source software has the potential to play a much more significant role in imaging informatics, if only more IT professionals and PACS administrators were aware of the benefits.

Open source software has the potential to play a much more significant role in imaging informatics, if only more IT professionals and PACS administrators were aware of the benefits.A new paper addresses this gap by providing an introduction to ways in which open source is being used in imaging informatics (Digit Imaging 2007 Aug 3;[Epub ahead of print]). It also lists a portion of the more successful open source applications available for working with DICOM objects."I didn't think there were a lot of practicing PACS administrators aware of how powerful some of the open source tools have become, and how relevant they have become in helping PACS administrators troubleshoot DICOM issues," said author Paul Nagy, Ph.D., director of quality and informatics research and an assistant professor of radiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.The paper is intended to illuminate several successful open source projects so PACS administrators could see how useful they are and how immediately the programs can be obtained, without having to jump through the usual bureaucratic and budgetary hoops, Nagy said."Familiarity with open source resources and the ability to easily integrate these tools not only provides no-cost solutions, it frees the PACS administrator from dependence on the timelined purchase approval process," he said.

The paper cites other reasons to consider open source tools:

  • Programs in which the users participate as developers are often powerfully intuitive, while still being competitive with commercial counterparts.
  • Open source carries distinct learning curve advantages -- familiarity with one open source program accelerates the learning curve on all subsequent iterations.
  • Open source tools are portable -- they can migrate with PACS administrators from position to position without negotiation with new management.

Nagy cited the DICOM Validation Toolkit, or DVTk, as an example of a successful open source program. DVTk has been downloaded over 11,000 times.

According to the

DVTk website

, this project creates different tools that can assist in the development, testing, and servicing of medical interfaces such as DICOM and HL7."These tools provide functionality and capabilities to improve the quality of your product interfaces and will assist in case you have integration problems," Nagy said.Another example is

dcm4che

, which Nagy said has become a powerful open source DICOM archive. "What's nice about dcm4che is it's become more IHE-compliant than virtually all of the commercial PACS vendors," Nagy said.

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