University-industry link launches next level of PACS education

Hospitals throughout the country are rapidly replacing legacy film systems with digital imaging to provide faster image access to radiologists and improve report turnaround to referring physicians. Some industry experts estimate that 60% of U.S.

Hospitals throughout the country are rapidly replacing legacy film systems with digital imaging to provide faster image access to radiologists and improve report turnaround to referring physicians. Some industry experts estimate that 60% of U.S. hospitals will have adopted digital imaging systems by 2006.

The mass migration has placed the field of radiology at the base of a steep learning curve. One consequence of rapid PACS expansion has been the discovery that qualified department managers, PACS administrators, and technicians are in short supply.

PACS training has therefore become a vital element in the installation and adoption of filmless imaging. Industry and academia have responded by introducing a variety of schools to acquaint healthcare workers with the skills necessary to manage and operate efficient digital radiology departments.

Radiologic technologists, for instance, can find PACS courses just for them at El Camino College in Torrance, CA. Students there learn to use digital tools to acquire and enhance images for radiologists to review. And PACS administrators can learn how to manage filmless departments at a training school run by SG&A Consulting. These classes address PACS and its impact on information systems, radiology, and cardiology.

The latest incarnation in PACS training opens this month at Indiana University School of Medicine. A collaboration between academia and industry has resulted in the formation of a PACS education and research center called the REWARDS Institute.

Sessions offer image management educational and training programs for hospital and private radiology practice executives, administrators, physicians, technologists, or other healthcare workers interested in improving clinical radiology workflow and productivity while learning the benefits and bruises associated with digital imaging.

"We offer four-day courses seven times a year on how to plan for, implement, and manage a digital imaging enterprise," said Lori Rumreich, the institute's director. "We also offer a variety of short, focused continuing education courses for physicians, RTs, and other health practitioners."

Classes, which have access to a dedicated PACS with several workstations, will cover the following issues:

?responsibilities and challenges of a PACS administrator
?collaboration with the PACS physician champion
?project management: forming a project team and justifying PACS
?networking, data storage, RIS/HIS/voice integration
?workflow and system architecture
?reading room design
?operational and behavioral changes


The institute will support a PACS research program and a customer learning center housed in a new $7 million facility in downtown Indianapolis. The center will be operated by Indiana University's radiology department and funded by its affiliated practice group, IU Radiology Associates, and GE Medical Systems Information Technology. The organizers say this type of collaborative research and education will be the first of its kind in the country.