How PACS effects dictation workflow

PACS has changed the way Radiologists work and adds numerous benefits to the way they diagnose problems. If you aren’t sure what we’re talking about, Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS for short) is the technology which is doing away with films – allowing Radiologists to view images on high resolution computer monitors. This technology allows Radiologists to query the system for a specific patient, or for his or her patients to be prioritized automatically. This removes the need for the doctor to sort through packs of film looking for the right one – and in most cases greatly enhances the quality of the images they review.

PACS systems integrate patient data, previous visits and current diagnostic images to be presented in one place for ease of reference and simplification of workflow. It replaces countless films, charts and documents. But how does it affect Radiology dictation workflow?

If a given Radiology department has PACS then they likely have an updated dictation system where-by they use computer software to record dictations for transcriptionist to type. Radiologists are some of the most frequent and most consistent dictators in a given hospital or similar healthcare facility. The problem is that in many cases administrators miss an opportunity to significantly increase the productivity and positive patient ID for these users.

What happens most often is that the PACS is housed on  one or more ‘powerhouse’ computers with high-end video cards and monitors specially designed to display PACS images, and the dictation software is installed on a ‘normal’ utility computer sitting next to it. Coupled with the years of study and experience, these two pieces of software are the tools the doctor uses most often to diagnose his or her patients. The problem is that these two pieces of software should interact, so the Radiologist can focus on the patient’s records instead of setting up a new dictation. In many cases dictation vendors offer PACS integration, and in most cases the PACS vendors are quite capable of providing the support needed to make this happen.

The result? When the doctor pulls up an accession in the PACS system, it automatically launches a dictation for the doctor, sending over patient data as well. The doctor has less steps in-between their workflow and their work and patient information is sent over without human intervention – preventing the positive patient ID chain from being broken.

The doctor wins and so does the facility. Even more so if you currently have barcode scanners and other expensive hardware installed to help the doctor along. They won’t need to scan anything – the PACS system sends all that information over for them. In the end, a small development effort between your PACS and dictation systems can maximize your investment in both, causing the Radiologist workflow to be more simple and efficient.