Friday, September 29, 2017

Vendor Neutral PACS Administrator training

A red light on my dashboard suddenly came on saying “no charging.” The battery indicator showed still at least 12 Volts, so I chose to continue my errand and take care of it when I got back home. That was a mistake, which I found out when my car stalled at a red light in a busy intersection. I should have turned around right away and/or gone to a garage to take care of my alternator which was broken. This event caused me to think that all of us are taught to drive a car before getting a license, but we aren’t taught basic troubleshooting of issues that might occur, hence these kinds of events could happen to anyone.

The same can be said of training as a PACS administrator. Similar to when a car salesman explains where to find the blinker and light switch, and possibly even how to set the clock on your car, there is little vendor training about how a PACS functions, what can go wrong, and how to interpret the “error messages.”

The good news is that cars have gotten pretty reliable, you don’t need to be a part-time mechanic anymore to be able to operate them. The bad news is that is not the case with supporting a PACS system. These are complex software applications, which definitely can have bugs, and are subject to many user errors and/or integration issues, which can cause images and related information to be unavailable or incorrectly presented to a physician.

Even though one is trained on a PACS system from a specific vendor of a particular release, it does not mean that you are taught the fundamentals. For example, what happens if the PACS rejects an image because it has a duplicate Accession Number, Study Number, Series UID, or SOP Instance UID?

Vendor-specific training does not cover what could have been the cause and how to fix it? Nor does it cover a “DICOM error,” or how to interpret the log files, or what to do if a modality does not display a worklist. What if images are randomly “dropped” when sending from a modality to the PACS? The easy answer is: call the vendor, but what if there is finger-pointing going on between the modality, RIS or PACS vendor, or what if the vendor is not going to be on-site for another 4 hours and your PACS is refusing to display any images?

I can go on-and-on listing many reasons and situations that are not covered by a vendor-specific PACS training program; but that is what you are taught by Vendor Neutral PACS Administrator (VNPA) training. That is why many PACS administrators search for “neutral” training providers that do teach the fundamentals.

The generic or neutral training is also a great track for healthcare imaging professionals who would like to get into this field, or want to cross over from a related career such as healthcare IT or clinical specialties such as radiological technologists.

The PACS fundamentals training covers subjects such as DICOM and HL7 basics and troubleshooting, and also covers new developments such as Vendor Neutral Archives (VNA), how to implement enterprise image archiving, what to look for when you get the new breast tomosynthesis modality or IV-OCT in cardiology, and the characteristics of the new encounter-based specialties such as surgery, endoscopy and in the future digital pathology.

As an additional bonus, you can even consider getting certified as a PACS administrator, where you might consider the basic, advanced and DICOM certifications.
So, even though you might have had the vendor-specific PACS administrator training, you might want to consider the Vendor Neutral PACS administrator training as well, to teach you the fundamentals which will empower you to be a mediator between vendors who are finger-pointing each other and blaming “the other” as the culprit, and to be able to perform basic trouble-shooting yourself without having to wait for your vendor to show up, and to be prepared for new developments in PACS and modality technology.