PACS brings burn unit?s visible light archive to the enterprise
SEATTLE—A powerful presentation at the 2008 Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) annual conference yesterday afternoon demonstrated the capability of PACS to provide critical patient images generated outside the radiology department to clinicians across an enterprise.

Nicole Gibran, MD, a surgeon with the Burn Unit at the University of Washington’s Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, showcased the institution’s PACS capability for delivering visible light images to clinicians connected to the system.

Harborview Medical Center is a 363-bed community hospital that provides services to residents of Washington, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho — an area that represents nearly one-quarter of the land mass of the United States, Gibran noted. It conducts approximately 550,000 outpatient procedures and deals with around 80,000 emergency room visits annually, she said.

In the burn unit, visible light images are obtained of patients when they present to the center, and are taken throughout the course of their treatment to document the results of clinical intervention, which can take place over the course of decades, Gibran said.

The unit’s image catalog contains 30 year’s worth of photographs that were previously available only to clinicians in the facility. The images were digitized and cataloged by the staff, and uploaded to the facility’s GE Healthcare Centricity PACS. From this system, they are available to healthcare providers throughout the enterprise via a Cerner EMR system, which the staff refers to as “Orca,” Gibran said.

Patient images in the burn unit are now taken with a digital camera, converted to DICOM via a PACSGEAR application, then sent to the PACS. Patient information and image data are entered by burn unit staff into the DICOM conversion software, which runs on a desktop PC.

This process has also been conducted at sites remote from Harborview, which allows physicians at the facility to assess the condition of these patients and provide treatment options to their local healthcare provider. In many cases, according to Gibran, this has allowed patients to avoid the expense and discomfort of traveling great distances to receive their treatment in Seattle.

The facility has also moved images from digital dental imaging and cardiology PACS onto a network attached storage (NAS) system, which allows them to be called up by providers via the EMR.

The staff at Harborview found that consolidating DICOM images into a single PACS environment has saved a tremendous amount of capital and ongoing maintenance. In addition, it has removed the need for purchasing departmental PACS products, which would have resulted in the creation of independent information silos.

“As this project evolves, I believe we’ll be able to provide a much better workflow across a continuum of patient care,” Gibran said. “It will allow us to manage multiple types of images needed for providing quality care, not just the traditional radiologic images.”