Setup lets you touch your way through images

March 5, 2001

The next generation of PACS may include an arrangement with a bank of diagnostic monitors controlled by a touch screen interface plopped in front -- where keyboard and mouse used to be. A team of radiologists and engineers from Image Technology

The next generation of PACS may include an arrangement with a bank of diagnostic monitors controlled by a touch screen interface plopped in front - where keyboard and mouse used to be.

A team of radiologists and engineers from Image Technology Laboratories in Kingston, NY, said at November's RSNA meeting that its PACS promises to enhance radiologists' productivity.

"As a radiologist, I needed more flexibility and ease of operation than was available through current PACS vendors," said Dr. David Ryon, president and CEO of Image Technology Laboratories.

Ryon formed a team consisting of fellow radiologist and software developer Dr. Carlton T. Phelps and Lewis M. Edwards, a member of IBM's senior technical staff. Together they conceived and developed a PACS that features touch screen control while allowing simultaneous viewing of hundreds of images. Built around Windows 2000, the system supports most medical and software design interoperability standards, including DICOM, HL7, ODBC, HTML, TCP/IP, CORBA and Microsoft DNA.

"Past PACS had two or four monitors, each of which had any number of GUI (graphical user interface) controls (icons)," Ryon said. "In order to manipulate images, you had to use a mouse and position the cursor on one of the GUI controls. As you get more and more monitors, that becomes more and more cumbersome."

ITL took the GUI controls off the monitors used for image viewing and placed them all on a single touch screen that sits as a control panel right in front of the radiologist.

"This allows us to have rapid navigation through the system since touch screen monitors are extremely fast, reliable, and intuitive," Ryon said. "That's why they're used in many industries like fast food. You just touch the screen for the next operation you want to go through."

Screen space can be expensive. Putting all of the GUI controls on a touch screen allows the use of every pixel on the high-priced monitors for image display.

"If you simultaneously have control bars and GUI controls on a screen, you're actually consuming high-priced real estate," Ryon said. "If you have a monitor that's 1028 x 256, you can fit exactly 20 images on that monitor - 256 times five in one direction, and 256 times four in the other direction. If you place a band across the top or down the side of that monitor for GUI controls, you lose a whole row or column of images."

Ryon said the company has one beta site in operation and plans to begin marketing the system in the third quarter of this year.