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Radiologists, PAC up your floppies and films

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You're in the reading room when you spot an exam that would be perfect for a teaching file. What do you do? If your PACS is equipped to archive teaching files, you're in luck. PACS allows radiologists to quickly and easily store interesting teaching

You're in the reading room when you spot an exam that would be perfect for a teaching file. What do you do?

If your PACS is equipped to archive teaching files, you're in luck. PACS allows radiologists to quickly and easily store interesting teaching files, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin.

"Most of the data that we are really interested in resides in our PACS," Dr Gary Wendt, director of radiology information systems at the University of Wisconsin, said at the RSNA meeting on Wednesday.

The university already had several disparate methods for capturing and storing teaching files, including traditional film-based files, pseudo-digital files that had been created by radiologists snapping photos of interesting cases with their digital cameras, and an online DICOM teaching file archive.

These methods provided haphazard and nonstandard ways of capturing interesting cases for teaching files. And they were not always located in convenient areas, such as the reading room, where teaching opportunities are most likely to arise.

"As a radiologist, I spend the majority of my time in the reading room and I have a limited amount of free time," Wendt said.

Working with the hospital's PACS vendor, Wendt devised a method for easily integrating interesting exams already in the PACS into teaching files. Radiologists in the reading room can mark studies for teaching file use and use the PACS workstation to file those studies in the appropriate folder.

The PACS software Wendt works with allows radiologists to create both files that are not anonymized for use in clinical care and files that are anonymized for routine teaching.

While the ability to create the teaching files is available on any diagnostic workstation, the University of Wisconsin is attempting to improve access to the files and is looking into making them available via the Web, he said.

The best thing about the system is that it doesn't interrupt the radiologists' workflow, because the PACS contains both the information to put in the teaching file and the software to create it, Wendt said.

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