Radiologists value stability, efficiency in a PACS over 'niche add-ons'

What do you hope to get out of your facility’s PACS? Lightning-fast speed? The latest and greatest features? According to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, many imaging professionals want stability and efficiency from their PACS over any other features.

“PACS must fulfill the ever changing needs of radiologists, ordering providers, trainees, and researchers, while increasing data capacity and connecting into wider electronic health records and radiology information systems that bridge large networks of care,” wrote Molly E. Roseland, MD, with the department of radiology at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, and colleagues. “These evolving challenges and the inescapable ‘shelf life’ of technology highlight the importance of continual optimization of PACS performance to ensure that its presumed benefits are preserved over time. Ultimately, when needs go unmet, hospital systems and radiology practices will undergo comprehensive updates or replacement of an aging PACS.”

Because that process of updating and replacing PACS can be so important to a facility’s future, Roseland et al. looked to learn what, exactly, people want out of a new PACS. In 2018, the authors had three workgroups of radiologists, radiology residents, IT specialists and department leaders gather to discuss what they want out of a replacement PACS. The workgroups came up with a list of 18 elements that were important to them, and those elements were then ranked by participants who took a survey. A total of 51 faculty members, 17 residents and three fellows from the same academic medical center took the final survey.

Overall, a “stable system with predictable behavior” had the highest overall ranking. A system that “minimizes repetitive non-value-added work” came in at No. 2, followed by interoperability and “near-instantaneous load times.”

“Given a choice of numerous modern PACS capabilities, radiologists in our study were shown to value systems that offer consistency, usability, and interoperability, all features that enable the sort of efficient practice and quality patient care that promoted the original mainstream adoption of PACS,” the authors wrote. “Our needs assessment showed that a stable PACS is felt to be fundamentally necessary for all facets of radiology practice, including clinical, educational, research and administrative roles.”

Roseland and colleagues noted respondents prioritize basic functions over “niche add-ons,” a finding that suggests PACS vendors should think twice before trying to reinvent the wheel or impress users with unnecessary bells and whistles.