Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Speaking the PACS language.

One of the major stumbling blocks for effective communication among PACS professionals is knowing how to speak each other’s language. Each profession has its own lingo, set of abbreviations and acronyms, and it is even be worse among the professionals who are involved with a healthcare imaging and IT system such as a Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS): it is as of each discipline talks a different foreign language.

For example, the network engineers speak about setting up their VLAN to support the new system using DHCP to assign IP addresses to the devices, the interface specialists talk about needing an HL7 “O01” order message to map the Accession Number into the Filler order number (OBR.3), the service engineers need an AE-Title and port number to sAet up their new modality, the PACS engineer needs the specification of the SOP Class UID to add the new, enhanced breast tomo-synthesis image type to the configuration list at the PACS image manager, and the PACS administrator needs to know the DICOM attribute tags for the Ultrasound measurements in the Structured report to map into the voice recognition software. In addition, the project manager need to specify the requirements of the metadata to be stored in the VNA and review the IHE profile statements to make sure it complies with the XDS and PIX/PDQ protocol to interface with the regional Health Information Exchange to share images.

If all of this sounds familiar, you are likely speaking the right language, but if not, you might want to take a language class on how to speak and understand PACS, DICOM, HL7 and IHE so you can effectively communicate with other professionals to resolve any issues that might arise. Remember, it is much more useful to communicate with a vendor in a precise, detailed manner than just say “the PACS is down” or “the images don’t make it”.

In order to learn the PACS language, there are several options depending on the individual learning preferences. Research has identified 4 different learning types, these learning styles are found within educational theorist Neil Fleming’s VARK model of Student Learning. VARK is an acronym that refers to Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing Preference, and Kinesthetic. In other words, some people have to “see it”, some have to “hear it”, some have to see and/or write down the words and others have “to do” it, i.e. need hands-on. In practice, I actually think that a blended learning environment is the best, i.e. to see and hear, write down a synopsis and make notes as well as do some practice.


Getting back to learning the PACS language, you can read text books on PACS, DICOM and HL7, take a core class, for example, on-line, and/or take a hands-on seminar or do extensive practice after a class, all while taking copious notes when following the training. As a matter of fact, you might want to check the schedule for the end of July as we have 4 on-line core classes on PACS, DICOM, HL7 and IHE coming up. Hope to see you in July (virtually) and allow me to improve your PACS language!

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