Proper planning simplifies PACS implementation for small imaging centers

January 26, 2005

PACS is no longer just for large academic and hospital institutions. With the appropriate strategy, smaller imaging centers can take advantage of PACS benefits to improve service and expand their base of referring physicians.

PACS is no longer just for large academic and hospital institutions. With the appropriate strategy, smaller imaging centers can take advantage of PACS benefits to improve service and expand their base of referring physicians.

PACS acquisition strategies for imaging centers do not differ greatly from those of larger hospitals and medical centers.

Facilities must still select the right team, develop and implement a comprehensive plan, perform extensive and ongoing training, and conduct a solid marketing program, according to Victoria Bedel, RIS solution marketing manager for Agfa. Bedel detailed PACS purchasing strategies for imaging centers in a recent paper (Radiol Manage 2004t;26(5):24-29).

"While these are all crucial to PACS success, a business plan is the center's fundamental need," she said.

The selection process can be complex, however, due to the perplexing range of vendors, pricing, and technologies available.

"Each imaging center or outpatient clinic that is considering PACS must first answer why it needs PACS and what it hopes to achieve with this technology," Bedel said.

An imaging center considering PACS purchase should consider its target market, its growth rate, and its staffing plans.

"Ask any imaging center professional why he or she is investing in PACS, and the answer no longer is merely to reduce film costs," Bedel said.

PACS can potentially resolve a number of imaging center issues:

  • Report generation can be faster.

  • Patient throughput can increase. More patients can be seen throughout the day so that time slots can be reserved for emergency referrals, providing referring physicians with better service.

  • More imaging can be done with the same staff, helping to relieve staffing shortages.

  • Images can be sent offsite for consult.

  • Imaging centers with a PACS can gain competitive advantage.

"For example, an imaging center's marketing representative could provide a referring physician with a demonstration in the physician's own office," Bedel said. "Using a secure Web site, actual studies can be shown to help increase the center's referral base."

The imaging center should take full advantage of PACS by marketing the acquisition to staff, radiologists, referring physicians, and even patients, she said.

A measure of good will is achieved when the technologist can tell the patient that the results of an imaging study will be available much sooner with PACS than with plain film.

"The stress reduction in shortening the time for patient results is often understated in PACS implementations, but this would be of personal benefit to most patients," Bedel said.