What is a Picture Archiving and Communication System?

What is PACS?

Medical imaging has undergone so many changes in such a short time, it can be difficult to keep track. Whether you are a healthcare provider looking to upgrade, or simply someone with no prior knowledge looking to learn more, often it can be beneficial to read a primer on the various technologies that have transformed processes in the medical field.

Few technologies have revolutionized workflow and infrastructure in healthcare as much as PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication Systems). Here is a breakdown of the primary purpose of PACS in healthcare, and how they work with other important systems to improve workflow and overcome common roadblocks.

What is the primary function of a Picture Archiving and Communication System?

Picture Archiving and Communication System, or PACS, is the term given to a kind of medical imaging technology that provides storage for, and access to, images from various sources. Its primary function is to store these images for ease of viewing, analyzing, and sharing or distributing when necessary.

There are four main components to PACS. The first two are hardware: the actual imaging machines and the device used for processing and viewing images. And the second two are software: an electronic archive for storing patient images and related data, as well as a secure network that allows them to be shared or exchanged when necessary.

Where once not long ago all medical imaging was carried out using analog machines and stored physically using things such as files and cabinets, now most PACS are not only digital — eliminating the need for physical files or storage — but actually cloud-based, allowing for more up-to-date information to be viewed from anywhere and by anyone with the necessary permissions.

Why use PACS?

So why exactly has there been such a comprehensive switch to PACS in medical practice? Is the potential disruption of a wide-scale switch worth the potential benefits? In short, yes. To elaborate, a Picture Archiving and Communication System has four main benefits:

  1. Replacing Physical Files: Replacing physical files has a number of benefits for radiology departments and healthcare providers as a whole. The first is that this process eliminates the need for stacks upon stacks of physical files to be stored. The main advantage of this for a practice being the amount of money it saves, as well as increasing efficiency and reducing waste in the process.

  2. Providing Remote Access: These kinds of systems, as with most modern digital imaging storage systems, also allow for remote access. This means that images are easily viewed from any authorized user in any location, often from multiple devices. Multiple practitioners can view the same images and information at the same time from different locations.

  3. Integrating with Other Platforms: Another huge benefit of PACS is its ability to integrate with other commonly used medical automation platforms, such as Hospital Information Systems (HIS) or Radiology Information Systems (RIS).

  4. Making Workflow More Efficient: All of the above benefits provide one significant additional overall benefit, and that is that they all help to make workflow more efficient. PACS reduce the time and resources spent on maintaining and storing physical files, they allow access to important information from anywhere, and they easily integrate with other platforms to streamline medical processes.

What is RIS and how does it relate to PACS?

As mentioned, one of the main benefits of these kinds of systems is how they all interact with one another in order to increase the efficiency of workflow. One of the main systems that is used in conjunction with PACS is a Radiology Information System, or RIS.

Much like PACS, RIS provides software networks that allow for easy management of medical imaging data. They can also be used to manage tasks such as patient scheduling, examination tracking, and billing. The main purpose and subsequent benefits of a radiology information system are as follows:

  1. Enhanced communication: As with PACS, RIS allow for real-time collaboration between people and departments, increasing workflow efficiency, and allowing for fewer delays in process.

  2. Less busywork: Due to its ability to manage patient registration and scheduling as well as file storage, report tracking, and other essential organizational tasks, RIS are able to eliminate busy work and free up time for employees to help their practices in more meaningful ways.

  3. Better billing: A huge part of this is in how it increases efficiency and billing and reduces human errors in that process.

  4. Medical Imaging: Similar to — and often in tandem with — PACS, radiology providers are able to use RIS to store and track or share films and related medical imaging data. This is a more secure, efficient, and economical way of doing things than using physical files.

If you are interested in learning about how you can upgrade your workflow in a way that is tailored to your practice specifically, you can view FAQs and read more about PACS systems, or contact Novarad to receive a free demo or quote today.

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