Research links teaching file to PACS

December 7, 2007

Australian researchers have reported a means by which preexisting features of a hospital PACS can be exploited to integrate a teaching file.

Australian researchers have reported a means by which preexisting features of a hospital PACS can be exploited to integrate a teaching file.

The study incorporates features not previously used in this manner (J Digit Imaging 2006 Dec 27; [Epub ahead of print]).

"This paper helps provide some insights for PACS users on how various components of their PACS might be combined to help improve the product they already have by creating a teaching file," said Dr. Luke E. Wilkinson of the medical imaging department at St. Vincent's Hospital in Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia.

Since PACS vendors have been slow to incorporate teaching file solutions in their products, many institutions have developed their own teaching file systems or use stand-alone products that reside outside the scope of the hospital PACS.

Wilkinson's technique is unique in that it does not store any images within the teaching file database. Instead, images are accessed using the OpenAPI (application programming interface) feature of the hospital PACS.

"The teaching file architecture implemented in this work means that image data are not duplicated, which keeps the teaching file collection to a relatively small size. This is very important when it comes to backing it up," Wilkinson said.

A teaching file integrated with PACS also helps simplify the case submission process and allows access to historical imaging data - even studies generated by other modalities that the original case presenter may not have been aware of or perhaps considered of no consequence at the time.

"But in retrospect, the complete case history can provide a great teaching aid," Wilkinson said.

The OpenAPI feature allows images to be displayed within the database using the accession number of the desired study or the patient medical record number if the full patient jacket is desired.

"This work shows PACS users that a little bit of lateral thinking can help provide a good PACS with even better solutions," he said. "I don't think the work presented here is extremely innovative, but it gains its strength by the lateral application of preexisting software products in providing a solution that meets the demands of our local center."

Wilkinson hopes that this work might aid PACS vendors in providing products that have greater flexibility in how teaching folders or interesting case collections can be generated and managed.

The design has some disadvantages. Creation of CD volumes is not automatic, and the database and associated data are not easily shared with parties outside the immediate hospital environment, he said.