- Storage Size: Important features of PACS is storage size. Before determining following three factors should be taken into account: study volume, image modality type and duration.
- DICOM Compatibility: Almost all PACS available today are DICOM compatible, but it is worth verifying to ensure that all imaging modalities are able to effectively get images to PACS. All manufacturers should make their DICOM conformance statement available upon request.
- DICOM Send: A PACS should have the ability to perform a DICOM send to other DICOM destinations. These destinations could be viewing workstation software, robotic CD burners, another PACS, backup locations and more. This feature “pushes” studies from PACS to the destination.
- DICOM Print: Many PACS allow printing to digital DICOM film printers.
- CD Burning: A common way to distribute images from PACS is by burning the images to CD. Along with the images an embedded DICOM viewer is usually burned onto the disc so that those viewing the images don’t need to have their own image viewing software installed.
- Query and Retrieve: This feature allows viewing software and other PACS or modalities to query PACS for specific studies and then retrieve them over the network. This is pulling the images from PACS to the destination.
- Patient, Study and Image Data Modification: This feature allows information such as patient name, patient ID, study description and more to be edited in case of misspelling or other mistakes. This feature should be restricted to trusted users and not available to everyone with access to PACS.
- Web Access: Web access is increasingly common in PACS available today. This allows administrative control and maintenance of images and PACS software from a web browser from anywhere the PACS is accessible.
- Web Viewing: Viewing images directly from PACS over the web can be a convenient way to share images with radiologists, referring physicians and others. Often the viewing of these images is encrypted, which automatically eliminates the need for purchasing other hardware or software to do the encryption. Check with the manufacturer to see whether images can be viewed on Windows or Mac, Internet Explorer or Firefox.
- DICOM Auto-Routing: This feature can greatly improve the efficiency of facilities that will be sending a lot of images on a regular basis. When PACS receives images, it looks for DICOM information that matches predefined criteria, then automatically sends those images to a specified DICOM destination. For example, all CT images are automatically sent radiologist A and all CR images are sent to radiologist B. Generally, these rules can be configured based on received time, modality type, referring physician and more.
- EMR or RIS Integration: Most RIS, EMR and other patient management systems are non-DICOM, so several methods to integrate them with PACS have been developed. Two of the most common are HL7 and WADO. While these vary greatly in what they do and how they are implemented, they serve to bridge the gap between DICOM and non-DICOM healthcare systems. Before purchasing any integration option for PACS check with the your EMR or RIS vendor to asses the associated integration costs for their system.
- Dictation, Transcription and Voice Recognition: In many situations it is effective to create reports directly from PACS. There are two basic ways to achieve this. The first is through digital voice dictation and a built in component for manual transcription. The other is through direct voice recognition software that integrates with PACS.
- Study Lifecycle Management: With this feature imaging studies can be marked with a lifecycle status that indicates where in the process each study is. For example, a study arrives in PACS with a status of unread, then advances to read, dictated, transcribed and finally reported.