December 28, 2007 – State-of-the-art digital Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS) technology is changing the way Britain’s National Health Service captures, records and uses patient X-rays and scans in every hospital trust, the Department of Health said Thursday.
PACS are replacing the old X-rays and scans on film and paper, enabling clinical images to be stored electronically and viewed on screen. The roll-out of PACS has been a major element in the National Program for IT (NPfIT), which is helping the NHS to deliver better, safer care to patients via new computer systems and services.
Using this technology, healthcare professionals can look at images at the touch of a button. X-rays and scanned images are available to view on screens in different locations such as X-ray departments, outpatient clinics, operating rooms and in-patient wards simultaneously.
The system also gives clinicians instant access to old X-rays and scans, enabling the comparison of old images with new. This is especially useful when treating long-term conditions. Images can also be rotated, enlarged and manipulated in other ways, helping clinicians diagnose conditions more quickly and accurately.
More timely reporting and clinical decision-making, and more efficient ways of working, mean that PACS is making a major contribution to the delivery of a maximum 18-week wait for patients from referral to start of treatment.
“The benefits of the introduction of PACS in terms of improved patient care are massive,” said Health Secretary Alan Johnson. “This innovative technology speeds up and improves the accuracy of diagnosis, saves time and improves the quality of care. Trusts are reporting that the time taken for radiologists and radiographers to issue reports to clinicians have typically been halved from more than six days to less than three and these report turnaround times continue to fall with some hospitals reporting all imaging within 24 hours.
As well as improved patient care, the introduction of PACS is also saving money with trusts reporting an average saving of nearly $500,000 in their first year of using the technology.
In 2004 the government introduced the program to implement PACS in all English trusts. The final trust to receive a PACS as part of NPfIT was Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust Dec. 10, marking the completion of a three year process that has seen 127 trusts across England receive PACS.
For more information: www.doh.gov.uk