The transition from capturing patient images on film to a digital format has become a popular alternative for many healthcare organizations. This transition can be complex, expensive, and require a lot of technical support to build and maintain a secure and reliable environment for healthcare professionals. By providing such an environment, physicians, clinical staff, and patients can benefit from immediately retrievable and reliable information. Without the proper management, hardware, and software of this type of information system, the data can become unavailable, unreliable, or the security could be jeopardized which could have a direct impact on patient care. In addition, the complexity and sophistication of many PACS can create a series of economic, educational, integration, and implementation challenges.  With the careful and well planned implementation of PACS, facilities can provide the physicians and patients with technology to enhance and greatly increase the quality of patient care while maintaining the security of patient data.
PACS in its most basic definition is the capture, storage, and distribution of medical images to a central repository. Instead of capturing patient images on film and housing them in a film room or library, the data is stored in a central information systems repository and can be accessed by many healthcare professionals at the same time. Accessibility by clinicians outside the radiology department is critical to success in sharing digital images for both patient care and productivity improvement.  This type of system increases accessibility to patient data which lends to a more efficient healthcare system. Physicians can access patient data more quickly which can lead to faster clinical decisions, easier access for consulting physicians, and the ability to provide quick access to a patientís prior studies for comparison. In addition, many of the redundant tasks of a film based environment can be eliminated. The hanging of films, locating lost or misplaced films, or the time taken to retrieve films from a storage facility are no longer necessary in a true PACS environment. Another benefit of a PACS is the ability to write patient studies to CD so the patient can take the study with them for their physician to review.
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