Every imaging facility needs a secure, reliable, and spacious place to store their images, right? This is why facilities purchase PACS systems. But, choosing a PACS system isn't as simple as acknowledging the need and placing an order. There are many PACS options that, depending on your volume, your staff, your comfort with data technology, and any number of other factors relative to your unique usage, may or may not work the best for you.
To help point you in the right direction, we've put together 3 big questions that should be at the core of any PACS purchasing decision.
Will It Be at Your Facility?
The "it" in this question (and the subsequent questions) refers to your PACS server- the data "real estate" where all your images will live. In some cases, a PACS server is kept at the facility that uses it. In others, the server resides in an off-site data center.
An in-house PACS server makes sense for hospitals and larger imaging centers. These types of facilities not only have the physical space to accommodate a server room, they also scan a high volume of patients and are more likely to fill their space and need to expand it at a faster rate. These larger facilities are also more likely to have a dedicated IT staff.
Will You Own It?
Many PACS solutions allow you to rent a particular amount of storage space on a remote server located in a data center for a set monthly rate. Your data is segmented to a single location, but the overall server is shared among any number of other imaging facilities. Don't worry- this is a common practice in data storage and, with proper management, is every bit as secure as a private server housing only data from a single client. If your storage needs will be basic (low-moderate volume, 1-3 machines, X-ray based) this can be a more affordable option for you.
The downside to renting on a shared server is the possibility of limitations and/or fees for data use. Some PACS services place a cap on the number of images you can send each month. The cap can be raised for a higher monthly rate. There may also be additional fees to store "premium" images from more advanced modalities like MRI, CT, or PET. The final common limitation is routing, that is, how many pre-set paths to different workstation locations can be programmed before incurring a higher fee.
If you choose to own your server, you have the option to store it in-house, or to store it at a data center. There is a higher up-front cost for the hardware, but a lower monthly cost. If your server lives at your facility, there is no monthly rate. If it lives at a data center, the monthly rate is lower, as you are only paying for the physical space in which it resides. Owning your own server also eliminates all limitations on how many and what type of images are stored on it. The space is yours- you can fill it however you like. Owning a server is a good option for facilities that use advanced modalities, scan a high volume of patients, or need to route to a number of satellite locations.
Will You Manage It?
A PACS server requires management and periodic upkeep including, but not limited to: security updates, adding memory, installing applications, and data clean-up. You can either have this done by someone on your team, or by hiring a third-party IT professional. If your staff includes an IT professional, this could be a good option for you. If that type of knowledge isn't present in your team and if you have no plans to add it in the near future, outsourcing your PACS management may be a wise choice.
While there is no "one size fits all" answer for choosing the best PACS setup, taking some time to deliberate on your needs and how they will affect your answers to these 3 big questions will help ensure that your next PACS purchase is your best pick for up-front cost, ongoing cost, and the practical needs of your imaging department.
If you're still unsure of which PACS options you should pursue, our team is ready to help you through the process with any additional information you might need. You can contact us here to learn more.
If PACS is just one piece of your next equipment project, you can access any of our other free resources below to find out what to expect as you take the next steps in building or updating your imaging practice.