More than a few healthcare facilities across the country have discovered that automated display calibration solutions bring multiple benefits. Such solutions save time by eliminating the labor-intense manual calibration and quality assurance (QA) process. Plus, automated solutions are proactive, which means they detect errors before they occur, and many problems can be fixed remotely, reducing disruptions to radiologists and facilitating a faster fix. They also save time and staff resources that would be spent going from monitor to monitor running software and tracking results. “It’s really the perfect tool to facilitate an extensive QA/QC program,” says Cynthia Marks, PACS administrator at Swedish American Health System in Rockford, Ill.
Inside the automated shop
Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. in Memphis, Tenn., is an automated calibration pioneer. The center deployed Barco’s MediCal Administrator software and built-in I-Guard sensors to manage its 85 PACS workstation monitors in 2003. All Barco monitors are connected by an intranet, and the system tracks the monitors daily, sending PACS Administrator Brad Smith an email to alert him if a monitor falls out of calibration or if there is a problem with a workstation. In many cases, MediCal suggests a corrective action. For example, if a monitor does not meet predefined specifications, the email suggests a quick QA, and Smith can tell the system to run it — all without leaving his desk or interrupting the radiologist.
“This system allows us to efficiently manage displays at multiple facilities. We could not manage all 12 facilities without the automated system and servers,” opines Smith. He calculates that Baptist Memorial would have to add at least one full-time staff person if it had not invested in an automated QA solution. In addition, MediCal cuts costs and time. “Without an automated solution, someone has to be in front of the workstation to perform QA. With MediCal, we can run it remotely in the middle of the night with the click of a button,” explains Smith.
Automated display solutions can meet the needs of facilities of all sizes. Skyridge Medical Center in Lonetree, Colo., relies on Planar’s Dome Dashboard to keep tabs on three Dome monitors in its reading room. “Before we implemented Dome Dashboard, I was solely responsible for calibration. There was no radiation physicist or biomed to assist with the process,” says Tim Masters, PACS/RIS administrator. Yet Masters felt he lacked the qualifications and know-how to adequately perform ongoing QA.
Now Masters runs Dome Dashboard minimized on his desktop. A warning pops up if the system detects a problem with the backlight or a monitor falls out of calibration. Masters makes the fix remotely and pushes it out to the monitors. “It’s increased my level of confidence regarding our calibration program. I think the software is more accurate than the puck,” states Masters.
Masters says that thanks to the software, he’s regained two or three hours monthly. He used to visit the radiology reading room monthly with his puck, scribbling notes on paper and transferring findings to a spreadsheet. Every month brought a few calls from frantic radiologists who were alerted to errors on their monitors. Dome Dashboard delivers errors straight to Masters’ desktop, bypassing the radiologist and enabling Masters to fix the problem before the radiologist knows it exists. “It’s seamless for the radiologist,” sums Masters.
Marks reports that Siemens SMfit ACT Basics software has simplified and improved the QA process at Swedish American Health System. QA is no longer a time-consuming, manual process that requires removing a display from service. “SMfit measures parameters I would not be able to measure on my own like backlight performance and display controller information,” says Marks. In addition, the software is tied to national standards such as DICOM 3.14 and American Association of Physicists in Medicine Task Group 18. “Without the software, it’s a significant struggle to access and incorporate national standards.”
Automated QA software is a sound investment that can take a QA program to a higher level by automating manual processes, proactively identifying problems and delivering alerts to the desktop and providing a link to national standards.