What is PACS (Picture Archival and Communication System)?
PACS refers to Picture Archiving and Communications System. PACS is considered as the global benchmark in the niche of diagnostic imaging. PACS allows medical images created in the form of scans and x-rays to be stored electronically. Such images can be easily viewed on screens, manipulated to highlight or resize certain parts of the body, indexed electronically and retrieved with just a few clicks of the mouse. This process isn't like the conventional form of medical imaging that use a lot of films and the medical images were created in the physical, i.e. the film, format. PACS allows easy sharing of images that helps physicians across various specialties and clinics to collaborate on a diagnosis and create the most effective treatment plan for the patient.
Versatility of PACS
PACS can be integrated in every healthcare specialty, ranging from radiotherapy, nuclear medicine and angiography to cardiology, dental and mammography. PACS is rather easy to integrate and can be used across all types of digitalized image testing methods like x-ray or scanning methods like Computerized Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or ultrasound. The most easily-understood example of using PACS is in the niche of radiology where creating detailed images of various body parts is the core function. Such image-based radiology reports can be easily shared via PACS in specialties within the same healthcare center. This means detailed imaging studies from the radiology department can be shared with hospital departments like Emergency & Accident, Neurology or Orthopedics via the Patient Information System or EHR (electronic health record) software. PACS also makes it easier to share such imaging studies with external medical investigation agencies since the test results can be instantly, electronically communicated.
PACS & Healthcare Providers
Using PACS ensures that clinical images are created in a standardized format and can be shared instantly and even simultaneously without compromising upon the integrity of sharing medical data about a patient. This is why PACS is deemed to be the most effective way of sharing medical imaging data among clinicians, helping to create more accurate and swifter treatment plans. Taking further the example of Radiology, PACS is used via a Radiology Information System or RIS that is essentially one of the many components of modern-day patient information management system wherein x-rays reports and scanned images can be directly viewed upon PACS and physicians can even input their comments or feedback. This contributes towards taking a more comprehensive diagnostic decision. PACS is highly accurate since it is an almost-filmless process. It combines the flexibility associated with digital information systems. PACS helps to neutralize costs that are associated with the conventional form of film processing, helping to save storage space that is needed for film/slide storage.
PACS & Patients
Apart from making life easier for clinicians, PACS also impacts the lives of patient, i.e. it improves the kind of healthcare services they are getting. For instance, faster access to medical images means faster evaluation and reporting that ensures a speedier rate-of-treatment. There is no need to undergo repeated testing as the same image can be manipulated and re-worked for different consultations. There are minimal chances of physician appointments being rescheduled due to loss of images. Less number of screenings or testing are required since during a single digitalized medical image session, various images can be created. PACS follows a certain code that ensures good quality of service and technical support, ensuring that the medical imaging processing and its associated functions follow a particular framework. Patients don’t need to carry medical films every time they have a medical consultation. They need not be worried about physically saving such images since the same are already being saved and archived by the healthcare center creating PACS-compliant images.