Evolved PACS brings simplicity to busy breast imaging practice

Sometimes, after a practice solves a major annoyance, staff can look back with a little humor.

“With our old PACS there were a lot of issues,” said Anita Edwards with a laugh. Edwards is the front desk supervisor for Mid-Atlantic Imaging Centers in Norfolk, Va., and she was thinking back to how cumbersome the process was with the old PACS to import images from outside facilities.

But before last year, staff at Mid-Atlantic weren’t exactly laughing. The old way of importing images took many steps, involving the creation of a new patient study and merging the data from the outside source.

Mid-Atlantic gained an appreciation for simplicity after installing a new PACS from Viztek in June 2014. Under the new workflow, staff members employ a one-click process and studies flow seamlessly into a patient’s folder.

A major benefit is that the Viztek PACS allows the user to change the medical record number on studies to match the one used at the incoming site, said Gail Trimyer, RT (R)(M), manager at Mid-Atlantic Imaging Centers. “When the doctor opens up the patient [in the PACS], all of the studies are there. And it will tell you which studies were done at our facility and which studies were done at other facilities, but it’s all under our MR number.” Trimyer estimates that they can now process four to five patient studies in the time it took to import a single study with the old workflow.

Intuitive tools

Trimyer said Mid-Atlantic, which primarily provides breast cancer screening services, originally turned to the Viztek PACS because it was not only compatible with the mammography and 3D ultrasound equipment they already owned, but the value was high. “You really get great performance for the investment. And of course that’s always the bottom line these days,” she said.

But it’s the intuitive nature of the system that has stood out, according to Trimyer. Radiologists at Mid-Atlantic’s various imaging center locations each have slightly different preferences—some want three prior images to be displayed automatically, others want more, for example—so their vendor helped them set hanging protocols exactly the way the users want.

Another simple but time-saving feature is the ability to click an icon in the worklist view to make a note on a patient and view patient documents whether an imaging study is open or closed. “It’s little things like that. You don’t really think about it until you start using it,” said Trimyer.

Now that the practice has hit the one year mark with the Viztek system, staff will be able to save time with Mammography Quality Standards Act reporting, which is built directly into the system. The system tracks screening mammograms, call backs and more by individual radiologists. Previously, this work was done by hand by a single technologist.

Edwards also noted the intuitive nature of the built-in scheduling functionality. “That has been very user-friendly for all the front desk staff and has integrated very quickly and easily with our other scheduling equipment.”

Simplified workflow, now and in the future

Practices looking for simplicity in their PACS should also be conscious of new modalities coming down the pike. For Mid-Atlantic, that means tomosynthesis, which the practice is looking at and plans to add in the near future.

Trimyer said that Viztek has already given assurances that the PACS is able to integrate with any modality, including tomosynthesis, once Mid-Atlantic is ready. Welcome news, as having to use a dedicated workstation for one modality while reading all other studies on a separate workstation is not the simple, intuitive workflow that helps practices thrive.

“It’s a lot of work to have to switch back and forth, especially for a busy practice,” says Trimyer.

But fortunately for Mid-Atlantic, that’s one annoyance they’ll be able to avoid. Their new PACS will be able to grow with the practice and anticipate needs as new modalities come online.

The combination of easy integration and intuitive tools has Mid-Atlantic lined up with a simplified workflow for the foreseeable future.