Linking Advanced Visualization and PACS

St. Luke’s Hospital and Health Network in Bethlehem, Pa., is a nationally recognized tertiary care facility that is committed to high-tech, high-quality patient care. That commitment extends across the enterprise. The radiology department is a center of excellence employing state-of-the-art technology. Two solutions that keep the department on the cutting edge of patient care are GE Healthcare Centricity PACS and Centricity AW Suite 2.0. These solutions also meet the second key need in radiology: streamlined workflow.

Two years ago, the hospital was among the first adopters of the GE Centricity PACS and Centricity AW Suite 2.0, and since then it has real significant benefits in terms of convenience, flexibility, efficiency and workflow.

“We use AW Suite on Centricity PACS workstations for CT and MRI reconstructions. The combination allows us to manipulate images in any plane without transferring the dataset from PACS to a freestanding AW and back again,” explains Laurie Sebastiano, MD, radiologist and clinical director of emerging technologies. One of the primary advantages AW Suite brings is the essential AW 3D rendering tools to GE Centricity PACS, which transforms workflow in the busy department.

“Many sites have only one or two standalone 3D post-processing workstations, which aren’t always in the most convenient spot,” notes Sebastiano. And workflow processes can be clunky. Technologists, who aren’t always sure which studies require 3D manipulations, must anticipate radiologists’ needs and push the datasets to the standalone workstation. Then the radiologist needs to move to the AW and hope that the station is unoccupied. The radiologist completes the 3D manipulations, saves the new images and sends them back to PACS before returning to the PACS workflow. “With AW Suite, it’s much more free flowing,” sums Sebastiano. The radiologist can recall images needed for 3D reconstruction from any Centricity workstation, without moving from the PC or interrupting conventional PACS workflow. There is no need to push data or send images back to PACS.

Inside advice

St. Luke’s radiology department has optimized its Centricity AW Suite 2.0 deployment via several key processes. “It’s important that sites outline protocols for data use,” says Sebastiano. “It’s not particularly effective if the site sends 5 millimeter reconstructions to PACS.” On the flip side, thinner slices are useful, but tend to gobble memory and hog the archive. St. Luke’s addressed the situation by upgrading Centricity workstations to dual processors. In addition, although 2 gigabyte memory suffices for 3D rendering, several users were upgraded to 4 gigabyte memory for optimum performance. The result is a fast, responsive experience, says Sebastiano. Datasets typically load in under 20 seconds, and the tools such as grab and drop react to the user with virtually no delay.

The other key to system performance is vendor service and support. “We run a lot of programs on Centricity and work closely with GE to ensure integration and optimum performance,” states Sebastiano. For example, St. Luke’s relies on an integrated third-party voice recognition system on its PACS workstation. The combination is another workflow booster as it automatically loads demographic information into the dictation system and allows the radiologist to begin dictating immediately — focusing on the meat of radiology rather than data entry or IT tasks. Similarly, the radiology department runs Confirma’ CADstream breast MRI CAD software on its Centricity PACS desktops with CADstream images on one screen and Centricity images on the other two. “The convenience is terrific,” says Sebastiano. “Radiologists don’t have to disrupt their workflow and walk to the CADstream server to interpret breast MRI studies.”

Future growth

The GE/St. Luke’s partnership has delivered significant benefits. The ability to integrate Centricity with third-party systems translates into efficient workflow processes across the radiology department. In addition, the Centricity AW Suite 2.0 solution re-invents 3D post-processing by bringing complete 3D functionality to the radiologists’ home base — the PACS workstation. Separate trips to a standalone workstation for 3D manipulation are unnecessary, which enhance convenience and efficiency. Still St. Luke’s aims to up the ante and deploy AW RemoteAccess later this spring. The solution crosses one of the final barriers in distributed 3D imaging. That is, it delivers AW functionality to remote Centricity portal, allowing radiologists to manipulate 3D datasets from anywhere. “The additional workflow gains will be significant for radiologists on call,” predicts Sebastiano.