Electronic teaching files: seven-year experience using a commercial picture archiving and communication system.J Digit Imaging. 2001 Jun; 14(2 Suppl 1):125-7.JD
With the advent of electronic imaging and the internet, the ability to create, search, access, and archive digital imaging teaching files has dramatically improved. Despite the fact that a picture archival and communication system (PACS) has the potential to greatly simplify the creation of, archival, and access to a department or multifacility teaching file, this potential has not yet been satisfactorily realized in our own and most other PACS installations. Several limitations of the teaching file tools within our PACS have become apparent over time. These have, at our facility, resulted in a substantially reduced role of the teaching file tools for conferences, daily teaching, and research purposes. With the PACS at our institution, academic folders can only be created by the systems engineer, which often serves as an impediment to the teaching process. Once these folders are created, multiple steps are required to identify the appropriate folders, and subsequently save images. Difficulties exist for those attempting to search for the teaching file images. Without pre-existing knowledge of the folder name and contents, it is difficult to query the system for specific images. This is due to the fact that there is currently no fully satisfactory mechanism for categorizing, indexing, and searching cases using the PACS. There is currently no easy mechanism to save teaching, research, or clinical files onto a CD or other removable media or to automatically strip demographic or other patient information from the images. PACS vendors should provide much more sophisticated tools to create and annotate teaching file images in an easy to use but standard format (possibly Radiological Society of North America's Medical Image Resource Center [MIRC] format) that could be exchanged with other sites and other vendors' PAC systems. The privilege to create teaching or conference files should be given to the individual radiologists, technologists, and other users, and an audit should be kept of who has created these files, as well as keep track of who has accessed the files. Vendors should maintain a local PACS library of image quality phantoms, normal variants, and interesting cases and should have the capability of accessing central image repositories such as the RSNA's MIRC images. Commercial PAC systems should utilize a standard lexicon to facilitate the creation and categorization of images, as well as to facilitate sharing of images and related text with other sites. This should be combined with a very easy to use mechanism to write images and related text when appropriate onto removable media (while maintaining a high level of security and confidentiality) to make it easier to share images for teaching, research, or clinical purposes.