Pulmonary specialists breathe easier with PACS

October 23, 2000

Radiologists no longer need to inflate the usefulness of PACS when promoting the idea to clinicians. In hospitals and other clinical settings where the PACS network has expanded beyond the walls of the radiology department, clinicians are discovering the

Radiologists no longer need to inflate the usefulness of PACS when promoting the idea to clinicians. In hospitals and other clinical settings where the PACS network has expanded beyond the walls of the radiology department, clinicians are discovering the advantages for themselves.

"PACS has changed everything," said Dr. Mark Robinson, chief of pulmonary medicine at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center (ARMC) in Colton, CA, a 370-bed teaching hospital affiliated with the University of California, Irvine.

"I have a PACS workstation connected to the hospital Intranet with images already queued up on it that allows me to view the results, say, of overnight imaging studies before I see patients in the morning," he said. "And nobody walks off with these images."

Most physicians want to sit down at a single workstation and call up all clinical information concerning a given patient, including medical images. PACS is helping facilitate this process for physicians at ARMC.

Studies suggest that digital imaging is a useful and unifying tool in improving clinical outcome of acute care patients. Clinicians cite advantages such as rapid image retrieval, consistently high-quality images, avoidance of exam repeats, more efficient patient throughput, shortened hospital stays, improved work environment, and reduction of end-of-day overtime. Teaching benefits were also mentioned.

Sometimes the improvement found with PACS is as simple as not having to search for lost film or spend time retrieving film in the first place.

Robinson and his colleagues in the ARMC Pulmonary Medicine Unit have been wired to the hospital's PACS for about 18 months, giving them the ability of get reliable, rapid results of current and prior imaging studies on demand, without having to search for film.

PACS has made it easy for Robinson to access x-rays, greatly reducing the time it takes for him to evaluate a chest study.

"PACS makes me more efficient. Before PACS, when we needed x-rays, we had to go down to the x-ray department, wait while the clerk grabbed the films, then return back upstairs to the viewer," he said.

Robinson is thus able to use his time more productively, either by spending more time with an individual patient or by seeing more patients overall.

Another PACS advantage proving itself in daily use is the placement of workstations in clinical wards, which gives Robinson and other physicians almost real-time availability of images and immediate access to radiology reports.

Robinson has one of 80 review stations distributed throughout the completely filmless hospital, which performs about 150,000 imaging procedures a year.

"With the PACS system, I can get any film I want in my office and out on the floors, without having to wait at a window downstairs," he said.