The evolution of informatics

The one constant is change, so the cliché goes. While the saying may be worn out, it’s likely because it tends to be true, and this is especially apparent in the field of imaging informatics.

For starters, we are in the midst of a transformation to the PACS 3.0 era. As detailed in the latest issue of Health Imaging, while the second generation of PACS was focused on workflow and the beginning of imaging across the enterprise, PACS 3.0 will be all about value. As healthcare moves away from fee-for-service toward pay-for-performance and integrated care, PACS technology will have to adapt to the idea that there are more stakeholders outside of imaging than referring physicians and patients.

PACS was a primary focus at the annual meeting of the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) this year, of course, and thought leaders in the field got to voice their wishlist for the next generation of PACS. Eliot L. Siegel, MD, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, said he is looking for a “smart PACS” that can actively help radiologists follow the progress of disease through workstation improvements. Storage is another big issue as study sizes are rapidly ballooning.

We’re beginning to see how smart technology and enhanced communication tools can improve healthcare. A study in the September issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology (JACR) demonstrated how a regional PACS network in Washington reduced the number of repeat CT exams, and at the SIIM meeting, research showed how clinical decision support scores correlated well with high probabilities of positive CT findings. There are countless other examples of such success stories.

These cases are exciting, but radiologists need to make sure they take an active role in how new technologies are implemented. That was the word of caution in both an October JACR article about decision support systems, and also in a Health Imaging guest column from September. The bottom line is that appropriate imaging initiatives will be more successful if physicians themselves lead the charge, no matter how advanced the technology becomes.

The first step to taking a more active role is getting educated, and RSNA provides a wonderful opportunity to do just that. We’ve selected a handful of informatics-focused sessions at this year’s conference that could be of interest, and we’ll be covering the conference live Nov. 25-30 in Chicago. Be sure to follow our coverage online and in print both during and after the show.


Evan Godt, staff writer