Calling all PACS Administrators

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PACS administrators, new and established, need effective training and a strong focus on vital communications skills. Here are some best-bets for training, including independent and vendor programs around the country.

Finding and training the ideal PACS administrator is a tough task. The position requires both IT and clinical workflow skills, and most sites need to create the ideal candidate since PACS administrators are still a small bunch. Prospective PACS administrators also need another critical skill set - communications. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta PACS Administrator Dave Moyer points out, "PACS impacts the entire facility. The administrator must have great communication skills to work with other departments and referring physician offices."

John Velleka, manager of radiology PACS professional services group for Philips Medical Systems, adds "The quality of the PACS administrator really makes or breaks the project implementation." It's a heavy load, and most PACS administrators need some training to help them master the complex role.

Prospective PACS administrators may start the process by taking a system administration course. In fact, some vendors, such as Philips, require an HP system administration course as a prerequisite for its PACS training course.

The first-line training for nearly all PACS sites is on-site vendor training, which should be part of the purchase contract. On-site training typically teaches new administrators how to administer the hospital's specific PACS, including how to operate the system, integrate with the RIS and manage daily, weekly, monthly and annual tasks. This training is geared to the experience level and needs of the customer. Take, for example, SourceOne (Mentor, Ohio). The company sends an applications specialist to conduct seven to 10-day, hands-on training with administrators, techs and clinicians. The specialist follows up with five days of additional training one month after the initial session. Siemens Medical Solutions offers a one-week basic course and a three-week advanced course for experienced administrators. "There's nothing like getting trained on your own system," Velleka points out. "This type of training is offered in a timely manner and often completes the installation process."

Another option is offsite vendor training. Eastman Kodak offers training at its facility in Dallas. Offsite vendor training can help new administrators prepare for the transition to PACS. Some PACS administrators reinforce new skills and close any gaps in their training by completing an in-house vendor training and following it with an offsite training course.

A final vendor option is a 'rent an administrator' program. The vendor provides intense on-the-job training through an on side system administrator. Typically, the hospital employee designated as the permanent PACS administrator shadows the vendor administrator and assumes responsibility for the position after 3, 6, 12 or 24 months.

But PACS vendors aren't the only training option. Some healthcare facilities start the process through training held by universities, professional associations or private consulting groups. SG &A Consulting (Arlington, Tex.) President Stuart Gardner says, "The advantage of our training program is that it is totally vendor-neutral." In fact, many SG &A students are employed by sites that have not yet selected a PACS vendor, and the knowledge gained during the training is used to guide the selection. The courses also meet the needs of prospective administrators who want to prepare for a PACS administrator position with a new employer.

The PACS learning process continues after the initial training. Most major PACS vendors offer advanced training that provides more detailed and thorough examination of clinical and technical PACS issues for experienced administrators. Fujifilm Medical Systems (Stamford, Conn.) sponsors an annual Digital X-Ray and PACS Forum that reviews current and future technologies and applications. The forum includes clinical and technical lectures, panel discussions and hands-on workshops; this type of training can help administrators continue to learn and prepare for future challenges by exchanging information and experiences with other administrators and industry leaders.

PACS Admin Training Schools

Indiana University: Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Radiology (Indianapolis) features a dedicated, live PACS training center and holds eight, three-day PACS